MLK Commemorative Celebration promotes diversity, justice, and service
By Remekca Owens
The 2017 commemoration at UT Southwestern Medical Center of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. highlighted the importance of service to the community, diversity in science and medicine, and promoting justice in various aspects of society, including health care.
The Jan. 18 event opened with a welcome by Dr. Shawna Nesbitt, Associate Dean of Student Affairs in the Office of Student Diversity & Inclusion, followed by a vocal performance of “I Was Here” by second-year Medical School student Danielle Rucker. Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern, reinforced in his remarks the importance of diversity in society and on campus, as well as the timeliness of Dr. King’s message of both service and social justice.
Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), explored whether or not “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice” in his keynote address. After being introduced by Dr. Marc Nivet, Executive Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Dr. Pérez-Stable focused on the continual need to reduce racial health disparities in the U.S. and encouraging young medical professionals to incorporate justice and diversity into their personal and professional lives.
His presentation outlined eight important lessons to young medical professionals that he suggested will help ensure that justice and equality become enduring elements of clinical care: practicing humanism, having passion for their profession, commitment to promoting service and social justice, exhibiting leadership, being a team player, maintaining high standards of professional ethics and integrity, becoming a mentor, and remaining humble.
“If Dr. King had lived I believe he would be fighting for immigrant rights, continuing to speak out against racism and discrimination in all of its forms, leading efforts for environmental justice, and promoting access to high-quality, affordable health care for all,” Dr. Pérez-Stable said. “The moral arc of history can be bent toward justice, even if it seems to take our lifetime. This is the Dr. King that will continue to inspire me.”
Prior to becoming NIMHD Director, Dr. Pérez-Stable served as a professor of medicine and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He was also director of the UCSF Center for Aging in Diverse Communities, which is funded by NIH’s National Institute on Aging, and director of the UCSF Medical Effectiveness Research Center for Diverse Populations.
Dr. Pérez-Stable was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) of the National Academy of Sciences in 2001. He majored in chemistry at the University of Miami before earning his M.D. there from the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Dr. Pérez-Stable completed his primary care internal medicine residency and a research fellowship at UCSF.
The MLK commemoration, hosted by the Office of the President, the Office of Institutional Advancement, and the Office of Student Diversity & Inclusion, also included presentation of the Texas Diversity Council’s DiversityFIRST Individual Leadership Award to Dr. Brian Williams, Associate Professor of Surgery. The DiversityFIRST award is given annually to individuals who demonstrate outstanding accomplishments in the promotion and advancement of diversity through inclusion and strong leadership. In addition to this award for his role in the aftermath of the July 2016 police shootings, the Brian Williams, M.D. Fund for Diversity and Justice in Medicine at UT Southwestern was established by an anonymous donor in fall 2016. To make a donation to the Williams Fund, visit utsouthwestern.edu/donatenow, call 214-648-2344, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.