Members of the UMass Medical School–UMass Memorial community gathered today to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by celebrating and honoring service to the community, and learning about how persistent challenges to equality—especially access to health care—can and should be addressed.
Chancellor Michael F. Collins noted that honoring service to the community was a fitting tribute Dr. King, whose famous words “Everybody can be great . . . because anyone can serve,” are recognized as foundational to his legacy.
“Our own exceptional commitment to service is expressed through the many staff, students and faculty who devote their time to community service,” said Chancellor Collins. “It is not surprising that so many among us serve. People attracted to the health care and biomedical research fields often exhibit a strong and well-developed commitment to public service. But it is inspiring to see the variety of projects we participate in, how innovative many of them are and how they reach from right here within our own campus, to across the globe.”
Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion Deborah Plummer, PhD, introduced keynote speaker Michael J. Barber, who is vice president and chief operating officer of Healthcare Systems and chief engineer of GE Healthcare. In his more than 30-year career at GE, Barber has had leadership responsibilities for developing new ways to detect diseases earlier and monitor disease progression. He also served as the first leader for GE’s strategy on global health, called healthymagination.
Healthymagination seeks to address health care disparities both domestically and globally by developing unique and innovative solutions to specific local challenges to health care access. Barber noted that although King would be thrilled that the country’s first African American president was inaugurated for a second time on Jan. 21, King would be deeply disappointed to know that significant racial and ethnic disparities are still rampant in the U.S. health care system as well as throughout the world.
James Leary, vice chancellor for community and government relations, spoke about the contribution the members of the UMMS community make in the form of volunteer service, including more than 71,000 hours of service globally, 47,000 hours of which occurred in Massachusetts, with 35,000 hours in Worcester alone. He introduced a video (above) highlighting just a few of the many ways members of the UMMS community give back to the community.
Dean Terence R. Flotte announced the recipients of the MLK Semester of Service Students Awards, a community service initiative designed to support student-driven community-responsive service and service-learning projects in the communities that surround the Worcester campus. This year’s project teams will help refugee children heal from traumatic experiences and assimilate through storytelling and performance; provide health education to residents of youth correctional facilities; provide complementary and integrative medicine services to women with gynecologic cancers; and improve the quality of free health care by formalizing Spanish-language interpreter services. Learn more about the four projects chosen to receive $500 grants: MLK Semester of Service Student Awards support local health projects.
Chancellor Collins then presented Chancellor’s Awards to two members of the UMMS community who exemplify the institution’s commitment to diversity and civility.
The Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in Diversity was presented to Deborah Harmon Hines, PhD, professor of cell & developmental biology and vice provost for school services, for her tireless work to enhance the diversity of the campus and the health sciences workforce through support of initiatives such as the summer undergraduate research program and the Worcester Pipeline Collaborative. “You are widely known as a constant mentor, guide and advocate for students, faculty and staff from underrepresented backgrounds,” said Collins in presenting the award.
The Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in Civility was presented to Tom Hopkins and the Employee Assistance Program that he directs. Referring to Hopkins as an “outstanding professional, innovative problem solver and compassionate colleague,” Collins presented the award in recognition of the invaluable help that Hopkins and the EAP provide to members of the UMMS community in navigating life’s worst crises as well as the day-to-day challenges that add stress and anxiety to busy lives.
The UMass Lowell Gospel Choir also performed, opening the program with “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and closing it with “We Shall Overcome.” Today’s event was the first to be held in the new Albert Sherman Center lecture hall. The building will officially open on Wednesday, Jan. 30.