For the latest COVID-19 campus news and resources, visit

Search Close Search


MLK Semester of Service Awards announced at annual tribute

Grants support student-community collaborations embodying Martin Luther King’s legacy

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

January 12, 2017
  Dean Terence Flotte, (far left), Chancellor Michael Collins (left), YWCA USA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron (at back) and UMass Memorial Health Care President & CEO Eric Dickson (right) stand with some of the UMMS students who were awarded MLK Semester of Service grants.

Dean Terence Flotte, (far left), Chancellor Michael Collins (left), YWCA USA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron (at back) and UMass Memorial Health Care President & CEO Eric Dickson (right) stand with some of the UMMS students who were awarded MLK Semester of Service grants.

UMass Medical School students will try to improve health care access for Chinese immigrants with limited English proficiency, engage Worcester middle school girls in hands-on STEM activities, teach Burmese youth about horticulture, and enhance health literacy resources for the broader regional refugee population, thanks to the newly announced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Semester of Service Awards.

Now in its seventh year, the MLK Semester of Service Awards program continues to support student-initiated community service projects that exemplify the legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The 2017 awards were announced at the 29th annual tribute to the iconic civil rights pioneer held at UMass Medical School on Thursday, Jan. 12.

YWCA USA Chief Executive Officer Dara Richardson-Heron, MD, delivered the keynote speech at the event, stressing that the ongoing efforts to eliminate racism and discrimination are as important now as when Dr. King led the civil rights movement 50 years ago.

“The good news is that racism is a chronic disease, which can be effectively treated, and over time, with a whole lot of effort and intestinal fortitude, honesty, education and leadership, it can be cured. Remember each one of us has an obligation to do the things that are within our control to make the world a better place,” said Dr. Richardson-Heron. “Let’s all make a pledge today to let our moments of frustration become catalysts for positive change. And let’s also strive to demonstrate what’s best in ourselves as members of one race—the human race.”

The 2017 MLK Semester of Service award winners are heeding that call with these projects:

Bridging Language and Culture Toward a Healthier Tomorrow
Student: Yan Emily Yuan, SOM ’18

Project description: School of Medicine and Graduate School of Nursing students who have completed the Medical Mandarin Optional Enrichment Elective will interview and engage with Chinese patients to gauge their unmet health care needs and barriers to getting care, notably in the use of preventative health care resources. All students will gain hands-on experience in working with limited English proficiency patients with the support of licensed medical interpreters.

Community partners: Bill Lian MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine; Marlborough Chinese Free Clinic; Confucius Institute at UMass Boston

STEM Start: Engaging Worcester Girls in Science and Technology
Students: Jacqueline Chipkin, SOM ’20; Colleen Gabel, SOM ’20; and Shruthi Srinivas, SOM ’20

Project description: The medical students will design and run a series of four after-school sessions to be offered each month from February to May in order to provide a diverse group of middle school girls with access to hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) enrichment activities. Each session will focus on particular STEM disciplines, including biology and environmental science; chemistry; engineering; and physics and math.

Community partner: Robert Layne, MEd, director of outreach programs at UMMS; Worcester East Middle School

Implementing Wellness Initiatives in a Refugee Youth Program Expansion
Students: Mark Fusunyan, SOM ’17; Courtney Temple, SOM ’17; Mem Tran, SOM ’19; and Kevin Gao, SOM ’20

Project description: Expanding and continuing UMass Medical School’s longstanding affiliation with the Worcester Refugee Assistance Project work, founded by Graduate School of Nursing alum Meredith Walsh, MS, students will develop youth group activities for a preteen refugee population. Burmese youth will be introduced to horticulture and cooking as both skill-building and therapeutic activities while developing supportive friendships with UMMS student leaders.

Community partners: Worcester Refugee Assistance Project; Southeast Asian Coalition; Tower Hill Botanic Gardens

Refugee Resource Collaboratory
Students: Samia Ahmed, GSN ’19; Steven Purcell GSN ’19; and Kaleigh Timmins, SOM ’19

Project description: Students will work with community partners to build a comprehensive and functional collaboratory. Through a needs assessment with key stakeholders, will define and develop a dynamic space such as a website or monthly newsletter where people devoted to refugee care, including health care providers, social workers, case workers and community leaders can interact, share expertise and collaborate on projects concerning the refugee population.

Community partners: Worcester Family Health Center; Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center; Family Medicine and Community Health Global Health Fellowship

The MLK Semester of Service Student Award program is run by the UMass Medical School Community Engagement Committee. Contact Heather-Lyn Haley, PhD, assistant professor of family medicine & community health, for additional information.

Related stories on UMassMedNow:
Jorge Sanchez Jr. and Edith Cullen receive Chancellor’s Awards for diversity and civility
Worcester Pipeline Collaborative celebrating 20 years
When We Were Home: Stories by young refugees living in Worcester