‘It was never a question of if I would get the vaccine or not’
As a Black health care professional, Audrey Rabas says she was compelled not only to get the COVID-19 vaccine herself, but also be an advocate on behalf of the vaccine.
“It was never a question for me as far as a medical standpoint,” says Rabas, manager of patient experience for Advocate Aurora Health’s northern portion of Wisconsin. “And it was also more, I felt, of a duty as a Black health care worker to help with easing the mistrust that so many Black people have with the medical community.”
Getting her COVID-19 vaccines – even though she is currently pregnant – supports Rabas’ passion for raising awareness for diversity, equity and inclusion. However, she recognizes the mistrust is founded in an extensive history of medical abuses and mistreatments, including what many know as the Tuskeegee experiment. Rabas has heard firsthand these concerns from Black friends and family members, but even so, she has a message of hope, strength and encouragement.
“If we want to see where we’re treated equally within the health care system, and that doctors and nurses are partnering with us and seeing us as a whole person and listening to our concerns, then we have to give a little,” she says. “We have this huge Black Lives Matter movement where we are asking people to see us for who we are and not only what color we are and to actually listen to us and to be a part of the change; if we don’t think that people are going to change and see us as equal, then what is the point of the movement? It has to start somewhere, and the COVID vaccine just may be where it starts.”
In fact, Rabas is so dedicated to equality and fair treatment that she presently sits on her area’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion council as the co-chair, where she is directly involved in planning initiatives to help team members have difficult, but necessary conversations that promote DE&I awareness and action.
“There is definitely a glass ceiling for someone that looks like me,” she says. “However, that just pushes me a little harder. I don’t want a ceiling over me. I want to go as far as I can based on my merit alone.”
“Many people do not realize or recognize all that Black people have contributed to this country, such as who performed the first open-heart surgery in this country, and who invented the three-light traffic light, to name a few.” Rabas says. “Black History Month is a celebration of the many hardships that we’ve had to overcome, yet are still here, and we are still trying to overcome. It’s a celebration of the resiliency of what it means to be Black and American.”
About the Author
Brianna Wunsch, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator for Advocate Aurora Health with a BA in public affairs from University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. In her free time, Brianna enjoys living an active lifestyle through biking, hiking and working out at the gym, but even more than that, she especially loves spending quality time with her two cats (Arthur and Loki), son and husband.