Grady workers band together to highlight issues of race and health

More than 500 physicians, nurses and staff from across departments at Grady Memorial Hospital knelt Friday as part of a "White Coats for Black Lives" demonstration first organized by Emory University medical students on social media.

Morehouse School of Medicine and Emory doctors staff Grady.

The idea of the demonstration took on a life of its own on social media among health workers across metro Atlanta, and the hospitals helped them make room. When 1 p.m. came Friday, hundreds, likely thousands, of people who work at Grady and at least six other hospitals knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time span George Floyd lay dying under a Minneapolis policeman’s knee. They knelt in memory of Floyd and others who have been victims of racial injustice.

Grady officials said teams from each of its neighborhood health centers and infectious disease center also took part. Grady’s turnout, taking place in downtown Atlanta and not far from the heart of the Atlanta protests, rivaled or surpassed the one at Emory University.

Health care workers who wanted to take part but were unable to also took part through Zoom or social media.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Protests in Atlanta

» MORE: The latest on the coronavirus pandemic in Georgia

Dr. Kimberly Manning, an Emory associate professor, an African American and prominent storyteller on the experience of treating patients and training students at Grady, participated from out of town via technology — getting texts, images, video clips and then a YouTube video that was put together by Morehouse colleagues.

“That march metaphorically happens every day going to Grady,” she told the AJC.

“It’s no surprise that people who are a part of Grady’s community felt compelled to be there,” Manning said. “I think that Grady, as a safety net hospital that serves a population of not only black people but black people who are descendants of slavery, our mission has always aligned with ‘Black Lives Matter.’ But I think now more than ever, with the events with George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and countless others, it just provides opportunity to double down on our mission.”

She noted that the trauma from violence against African Americans puts Grady caregivers on the front line, as they work at metro Atlanta’s premier Level I trauma center.

A Zoom event that Manning and doctors across the nation participated in that day timed along with the demonstrations was hijacked by hackers who blared racist and misogynistic music and screaming, and began publishing the private contact information of participants as organizers shut the meeting down.

The stress from such racism is found to have a negative health impact on black people over time, likely contributing to higher incidence of hypertension and other conditions, researchers have found.

They regrouped quickly with a private video that has since been seen thousands of times, and Manning was measured in response. “Angry and awful is really just sad’s bodyguard,” she said.