Celebrating Our Differences
I never thought I could be so happy to welcome the first day of a warming trend, but today I say, “Hallelujah!” I applaud everyone’s perseverance for making it through this bitterly cold week. And I want to give a special thanks to our building and grounds team for keeping our walkways and parking areas safe and navigable.
Last Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural “Pillars” awards, presented to those among us who are working hard to make our society more just and inclusive. This was a project of UMMC’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, headed by Dr. Juanyce Taylor.
The event was especially resonant because of when and where it occurred. It took place at Mississippi’s magnificent new museum complex, one-half of which is dedicated to presenting the unvarnished history of the state’s civil rights movement. And it took place on the weekend we celebrate the birthday of America’s greatest champion of civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Indeed, it was inspiring to arrive at the museum in downtown Jackson and see long lines of people – families, young and old, stretching several city blocks – waiting to enter the museum at no charge during the holiday weekend, courtesy of the Kellogg Foundation.
Inside, I was pleased to see a large turnout, including many of our senior UMMC leaders, on a Sunday to support this event. I want to publicly thank Dr. Taylor and the committee that worked to select the honorees and make this such a meaningful event.
Dr. Taylor has been at the Medical Center for about a decade, but she has been in the new institutional role we created as chief diversity and inclusion officer for only a little less than two years. I appreciate that she is carefully building a program, not as merely a box on our organization chart, but as a mindset and a commitment to those values that are interwoven in all we do.
Most of all, I want to extend my congratulations and appreciation to all of those who were honored for the work they are doing. The effort, the energy, the passion and the heart they bring to their work at the Medical Center every single day makes us better, and it makes us stronger. If you haven’t already, you can read about these exceptional people in yesterday’s eCV.
At the event, I overheard somebody say how ironic it is that we give awards to individuals for simply recognizing that all people are equal, regardless of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religion, or some other difference. In a way it does seem odd, and yet we all know that it takes real work and real courage to stand up – for oneself and for others – for the simple right to be "different" from some imagined standard and yet be valued equally.
Indeed, there has never been a time in our history that this work is more important than it is right now. There has never been a place in the country that this work is more important than it is right here in Mississippi. When we talk about moving the Medical Center forward, moving the state forward and making Mississippi healthier and stronger, it's not just about hemoglobin A1C values, glucose levels or blood pressure readings. It's about continuing the quest to measure up in the world of diversity and inclusion, and how we take care of each other along the way.
In this regard, I believe UMMC measures up relatively well, and I’m proud of that. But the nature of this challenge is that we can always do more, and we all know we must do more, on our journey toward A Healthier Mississippi.