Medical student receives MLK Award

Kamakki Banks, a fourth-year medical student dedicated to erasing ethnic disparities in hypertension and heart disease, received the 2005 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award for community service during a January ceremony.

The annual award, established in Dr. King's memory, recognizes a student who has made significant contributions to the community.

After earning a bachelor's degree in biology from Austin College and master's degree in public health from UT Austin, Ms. Banks came to UT Southwestern as a research assistant in the hypertension division and began working closely with Dr. Ronald Victor, chief of hypertension. She became involved in a project studying barriers to awareness, treatment and control of hypertension and designing a community health program that addressed those barriers. The project inspired her to become a doctor.

"I was moved by the patients' daily struggle with high blood pressure and its complications,"she said. "Dr. Victor's endless compassion for patients and tireless commitment to community health research helped me realize that my interests could also be united and I, too, could make a dramatic difference in people's lives."

Dr. Drew Alexander, assistant dean for community affairs and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics, believes that Ms. Banks will make a difference in health care and says it was this drive that made her the best candidate for the scholarship.

"When she was at Austin College and her aunt asked her, 'What have you done for others?' Kami decided to tackle the disparities and inequalities that exist in health care," Dr. Alexander said. "I believe she will indeed take that path and improve the health disparities in our society."

Ms. Banks plans to specialize in cardiology and hopes one day to become a faculty member of a large academic medical center where she could continue cardiovascular disease research.

Her activities include the Student National Medical Association, which she has served as legislative affairs representative, treasurer and vice-president. She currently is president of the medical students' Internal Medicine Interest Group and remains active in community health projects both on and off campus. She is also involved in planning a UT Southwestern student-sponsored health fair at Thomas Rusk Middle School.

Terdema L. Ussery II, president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Mavericks and chief executive officer of HDNet, spoke at the ceremony.

Applications are being accepted for next year's scholarship. For more information, call 214-648-4343.