Just over 80 years ago, two Black doctors applied for membership to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and there were rejected repeatedly for six years. On Wednesday, the AAP issued an official apology to the two physicians for the racism that kept them out of the academy from 1939 to 1945, when they were finally accepted.
According to CNN, AAP President Dr. Sally Goza said in the academy’s statement that the apology to Alonzo DeGrate Smith and Roland Boyd Scott is “long overdue.” Now, neither of the doctors are alive today to receive their apologies, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of the acknowledgment that racial discrimination kept them out of this prestigious club for years.
DeGrate and Scott were clinicians and faculty members at Howard University College of Medicine when they faced systemic racism and were unable to join either their local chapter of the American Medical Association or gain admitting privileges at local hospitals, the AAP said.
“When they applied to AAP to become members, they faced a ‘shameful gauntlet to membership’ that lasted six years, through multiple meetings of the AAP Executive Committee,” the pediatrics group said.
“The AAP is celebrating our 90th anniversary this year and we have accomplished a lot of good things for children,” Goza wrote in the statement that will be published in the September issue of Pediatrics, CNN reports. “But we must also acknowledge where we have failed to live up to our ideals. That is the only way we can work together to build a better future.”
The AAP has been pretty good about addressing racism in the past couple of years. In 2019, the organization published an essay on “The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health” and, in June, they published an article that included a quote from Goza saying, “We must dismantle racism at every level, from individual to institutional to systemic.” The article also included quotes from other members of the academy who spoke out in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the subsequent surge in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“In the 90-year history of the AAP, advancing child health has often meant fighting for social justice,” AAP CEO/Executive Vice President Mark Del Monte, J.D. said. “The mission of the AAP cannot be accomplished when structural racism deprives too many children of a fair chance and an equitable future.”