I was born in 1955 in a small town in the Mississippi Delta. That same year, locals murdered an African American minister who had come there to register black people to vote. The investigation never resolved, leaving the perpetrators to run free – and my childhood town lingering in its wake.
My professional life has taken me far from the Mississippi Delta, running a company that is active in over 150 countries. But I only need to turn on the news to see that injustices like the one that happened in my hometown continue to affect us.
In my work at Fresenius Medical Care, we look after patients who suffer from end-stage kidney disease, people who are very sick and vulnerable – and the honor of caring for them is a powerful experience that continues to change me.
Although we also produce and provide equipment to replace lost kidney function, our patients need more than technology. Every time they come to our clinics, our care team asks them how they are, when they last took their medication, if they exercised, and what they had to eat and drink. It’s a professional and medically necessary relationship – but also one that requires sympathy and trust.
2020 has presented a challenge to that trust. The healthcare community was faced with four crises at once: COVID-19, the economic crisis in its wake, climate change, and racial injustices like the killing of George Floyd, each with the potential to shatter that trust and drive a wedge between people.
It’s far too easy to despise others just because they look, live, or love in a manner different from our own, speak other languages, cherish other things, or pray to other gods. These fault lines can easily tear nations, neighbors, friends, and families apart – dividing us into groups with little common ground between them. Terrifying, isn’t it?