Juneteenth art banner.
By Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH & John Paul Sánchez, MD

UNM Health and Health Sciences leaders reflect on Juneteenth

A blending of the words June and nineteenth, Juneteenth marks the events of June 19, 1865, when Union Army soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day, and “America’s Second Independence Day”, it is a day that reminds us that even though freedom was granted in January of 1863, it took two additional years before countless enslaved Black Americans in this country learned of their emancipation.

After originating in Galveston, the annual celebration of Juneteenth spread throughout the U.S., commemorating emancipation through the celebration of Black culture. In 2021, Congress passed legislation establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. It is our honor to join our nation in joyful recognition of this important date, a powerful affirmation of the progress our nation has made in the long journey toward freedom and equity for all – and a reminder of the distance that still lies ahead.

Our nation’s work toward true freedom, democracy, and equity continues. Inequalities across social and political spectrums – such as income, policing, incarceration, housing, access to equitable education and healthcare, and shortened lifespan due to systemic injustices – demonstrate that freedom is not ringing throughout the whole of the U.S. The promise of freedom remains out of reach for many, unless we as individuals and a society act to make it so for all.

With that in mind, we invite everyone to commemorate Juneteenth with reflection and action. We encourage you to participate in this struggle for equity by addressing issues of systemic and structural racism and racial injustice. Begin developing an anti-racism lens by joining in anti-racist activities, talking with your friends and colleagues, and supporting efforts to advance racial justice.

As the UNM Health & Health Sciences community, let us continue to build a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable learning and work environment so that all members feel welcome and valued. Led by Dr. Valerie Romero-Leggott, the HSC Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) spearheads this essential work. Please take a moment to learn about their programs and how you can get involved.

We appreciate everything you do, as individuals and as a community, to achieve a free and just world for all.



Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH

Executive Vice President, UNM Health Sciences

CEO, UNM Health System



John Paul Sánchez, MD

Interim VP, HSC Office for Diversity Equity and Inclusion

Categories: Diversity, News You Can Use