In her keynote address at the 23rd Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at UMass Medical School, Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, MD, urged those attending the standing-room-only event to reflect on the meaning of service as described by Dr. King. “One dictionary defines service as ‘work done by one person or group that benefits another,’” said Dr. Bigby. “But there is also an element of self-sacrifice as embodied by Dr. King that we need to embrace—that service is more than the acts of an individual or group to benefit a few, but to benefit society and all of mankind.” These sentiments were echoed by the other speakers and were reflected in the awards presented to members of the UMMS community for their commitment to the values personified by King. Chancellor Michael F. Collins reflected on the power of service to change the world, saying, “Continually I am inspired and impressed by the many ways our students, staff and faculty serve in our communities, around the nation and abroad. Truly, we have committed ourselves to improving our world and helping the needy.” Chancellor Collins also introduced two new institutional awards that honor values that are fundamental to changing the world in the ways that Dr. King dreamed about.
Warren Ferguson, MD, associate professor of family medicine & community health received the Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in Diversity, which recognizes an individual or group exemplifying the Medical School’s Diversity Statement. Commitment to diversity is shown through actions that include building an inclusive culture characterized by civility and respect; increasing numbers of underrepresented groups in student, faculty and staff positions; improving the cultural competence of the workforce through diversity education and programming; and advancing health equity by making a significant impact on reducing disparities through research. Dr. Ferguson was specifically recognized for promoting diversity and reducing disparities through academic research and curriculum development as well as professional presentations on cultural competence and diversity issues, among other actions and initiatives. School of Medicine Dean Terence R. Flotte presented four Martin Luther King Semester of Service Student Awards to project teams that will partner with Worcester community organizations to strengthen existing relationships; address community needs and student learning objectives; and provide opportunities for members of the UMMS community to collaborate and engage with the larger community.
GSN student Toy Lim will work with the African Community Education organization on a culturally and age-appropriate nutrition and obesity prevention education program for local African refugee children; medical student Sarah Tracy and GSBS student Nang Maung plan to help teens and young adults from Burma become community leaders as they learn about health care while running an educational health night for the local Burmese refugee population; SOM students Micaela Bayard and Matthew Zanghi will partner with Worcester’s North High School to offer a book group for their GEAR UP college awareness and readiness program; and SOM students Mitchell Li, Matthew DeWolf and Adam Chin will team up with the Worcester Department of Public Health and the Hunger Free and Healthy Coalition to help local restaurants learn how they can voluntarily eliminate trans fats from their menus. These awards are sponsored by the Building on the Promise: Learn and Serve UMass project, a five-campus initiative funded by Corporation for National and Community Service. Deborah Plummer, PhD, associate vice chancellor of diversity and equal opportunity, said that this event was an opportunity to recall, remember and be inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., adding that as an institution, we live his core values in our teaching, research and service missions. The celebration ended with a moving video, called UMMS Cares, that highlighted the work of members of the UMMS community to benefit society. In his introduction to the video, James Leary, vice chancellor of community and government relations, challenged those attending to make a commitment to volunteer and to spread the word about the UMMS Volunteer Fair that will take place on campus this week in partnership with the United Way of Central Massachusetts. In keeping with a tradition of the annual celebration, a member of the UMMS community—this year, Nancy M. Fontneau, MD, clinical associate professor of neurology—led the gathering in singing “We Shall Overcome” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing."