Members of the School of Medicine Community,
By now you have learned of the grand jury decision regarding Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Since Michael Brown’s death in August, the St. Louis region has experienced degrees of tension and turmoil previously unfamiliar to the community. The vandalism and violence in Ferguson last night, in contrast to the peaceful demonstrations, compound the tragedy for the family, the neighborhood and our community. Considerable uncertainty remains about what will come next — from the reactions today, tomorrow and next week, to how we in St. Louis and in this nation will address the many difficult issues that led to this moment in our history.
It is my greatest wish that the St. Louis region, as a whole, will respond thoughtfully, respectfully, peacefully and with open minds as we move toward becoming a better, more unified community. This will require that we listen to each other and attempt to understand our differences as we take clear steps to strengthen our society and ensure justice and opportunity for everyone. The St. Louis region has exceptional people of good will and compassion. It is a community I am proud that we are a part of and one that I believe can become stronger and more inclusive through all of this.
As a medical center that provides health care to the community and performs a range of other functions around the clock, we plan to continue business as usual, particularly so that we may support patients and their families who come to us. You may notice an increase in security measures, so while we always encourage the wearing of identification badges, we especially encourage that practice now.
Regarding expected demonstrations throughout the area, be assured that your health and safety and that of our patients and visitors are among my concerns. School of Medicine Protective Services and the Washington University Police Department are in close contact with other area law enforcement organizations, and the university’s emergency response plans are in place. We will reach out to you through your department leadership with updates if any are needed. University-wide information related to the grand jury decision is available here: https://voices.wustl.edu/grand-jury-announcement/.
Please know that if you need help coping with the events that are unfolding, employees and their dependents can contact the university’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) — LifeScope EAP — for help 24/7 at 800-765-9124. Students can seek assistance through Student Health Services, at 314-362-3523, or by talking with faculty or student support services within your program.
Finally, with Thanksgiving just days away, I want you to know how grateful I am for your dedication and compassion, which make our institution the exceptional place it is. Your generosity is responsible for increasing the number of School of Medicine employees making donations to the United Way by more than 22 percent this year. I believe this is a reflection of your commitment to the community and a shared desire to see St. Louis move forward and thrive. Thank you so much for all that you do. Please accept my best wishes for a peaceful and meaningful Thanksgiving holiday.
Larry J. Shapiro, M.D.
Executive Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs and Dean