Health care workers hold vigil for Gaza

Drexel University medical students held a vigil April 8 for the 485 health care workers killed by U.S.-supplied Israeli bombs, snipers and Israeli Occupation Forces soldiers in gross violation of international laws. They gathered in the late afternoon outside the Drexel University Health Science Building in west Philadelphia.

Symbolic ‘blood stained’ medical scrubs with pictures of slain Gazan health care workers on display outside Drexel University Health Science Building. Philadelphia, April 8, 2024 : Credit: WW Photo: Joe Piette

The very moving event, attended by about 50 people, was organized by Drexel Medical Students for Palestine.

On the sidewalks outside the building entrance, “blood-stained” medical scrubs were on display, many with pictures and short stories about doctors and nurses killed in the last several months during the IOF assaults on hospitals and other health care facilities in Gaza. Only 12 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals remain open, all 12 in partially functioning condition with limited access to medicine and supplies.

On an elevated wall alongside the sidewalk, pictures were displayed on concrete slabs of several messages written by people killed in the Al-Shifa Hospital medical complex. The IOF had executed over 400 people there, including two doctors and nurses, other hospital staff and children and refugees seeking shelter. At least 22 patients were murdered in their hospital beds.

A wall composed of medical masks tied together hung on a metal frame near the building’s door at Drexel. Each mask bore the name of one of the 485 martyred health care workers.

Wall with surgical masks bearing names of Gazan health care workers killed by the IOF on display at Drexel vigil. Philadelphia, April 8, 2024.: Credit: WW Photo: Joe Piette

Drexel nursing student Kayla O. described being taught to model their conduct after British nurse Florence Nightingale, credited with founding modern nursing. Nursing students are taught to memorize the “Nightingale Pledge” — a modified version of the Hippocratic Oath for doctors. The student noted that Nightingale was both strongly supportive of British colonialism and racist in her conception of nurses as being essentially white, excluding women of color from nursing.

She contrasted Nightingale with 21-year-old Palestinian nurse/paramedic Rouzan al-Najjar, killed by the IOF during the 2018 Gaza border protests. Al-Najjar was fatally shot by an IOF soldier as she tried to help evacuate wounded people.

Al-Najjar’s mother spoke of her daughter’s pride in wearing the white jacket with reflective, highly-visible pink stripes that identified medical personnel. She was wearing her jacket when she was shot and killed.

“Unlike Nightingale,” Kayla said, “who was serving colonialism and occupation, Rouzan al-Najjar became a nurse to dedicate her short life to caring for the occupied people of Gaza. She is the model nursing students should be following today.”  The historic picture of al-Najjar in her nursing jacket and bright red headscarf was on display at the vigil.


Workers World Philadelphia bureau

Published by
Workers World Philadelphia bureau

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