Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of justice and equality should resonate with those devoted to delivering fair and equal medical treatment to everyone.
That was the heart of the message raised Wednesday at a Medical Center ceremony honoring the life of the late civil rights leader on the eve of what would have been his 86th birthday.
The service of prayer and thanksgiving, held in the Norman C. Nelson Student Union, reflected King’s attitude toward diversity, with readings from the sacred scriptures of a variety of world religions. It included group singing, an art award presentation and a dramatic reading of King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Audwin Fletcher, professor in the School of Nursing.
As the featured speaker, Dr. Ralph Didlake, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, harnessed King’s ideas to the sphere of medicine: “We, too, can be inspired by Dr. King’s model of justice and inclusion and can envision a different future wherein all can have access to health and health care,” he said. (Read his full presentation here.)
“A future wherein a colon cancer is not diagnosed later because of the color of your skin or because of your financial circumstance. … “
Referring to research exposing health-outcome disparities, especially among people of color, Didlake said the way to heal this condition is to “evaluate and treat every patient or any other individual without bias, preconception or assumption” until it becomes “an acquired skill that we practice automatically.
“This is also how we can honor Dr. King’s life, his work and his legacy.”
Celebrating King is a tradition at UMMC. Doris Whitaker, chaplain and director of pastoral services, described it as “a sacred time carved out to remember the past …, reflect and re-imagine our lives.”
Other highlights of the service, which was sponsored by the Division of Multicultural Affairs and the Department of Pastoral Services:
- La Treviyontae “Tre” Ferrell, a 10th grader at Germantown High School, drew recognition, and a $150 check, as the winner of an art contest for his charcoal-on-paper work, “Looking Forward to the Future,” a depiction of symbols and faces of the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and King, who was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis.
- Dr. LaToya Richards Moore, associate professor in the School of Health Related Professions, performed an a cappella solo of one of King’s favorite songs, “If I Can Help Somebody.”
- Lafreda Sias, executive assistant in the Division of Multicultural Affairs, presented “A Remembrance of Religious Diversity during the Civil Rights Movement,” mentioning the contributions of Sister Antona Ebo, a Catholic nun who participated in the 1965 March on Selma – about two decades before Ebo served as a UMMC chaplain.