Martin Luther King Jr. tribute celebrates service at UMMS

January 23, 2018

The life and words of Martin Luther King. Jr. resonated at UMass Medical School on Monday, Jan. 22, when actor and director Phil Darius Wallace kicked off the 30th annual tribute to Dr. King with his one-man show “From the Heart of a King.” The celebration of service, civility and diversity among the UMMS and UMass Memorial Health Care communities highlights the many ways in which members enact Dr. King’s legacy of service. Joyce A. Murphy, Executive Vice Chancellor, Commonwealth Medicine, was recognized as a member of the team that received the Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in Diversity.

Along with the Chancellor's Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in Diversity, Chancellor Michael F. Collins presented 16 School of Medicine students with MLK Semester of Service Awards. 

Kenneth Peterson, PhD, assistant professor of nursing, accepted the Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in Civility on behalf of his team. Dr. Peterson, a family nurse practitioner at a Worcester community health center, and former director of the Graduate School of Nursing Doctor of Nursing Practice program and Family Nurse Practitioner track, focuses his research on minority health. He is the GSN leader on the UMMS Diversity and Inclusivity Committee, and a role model for nursing and medical students through the LGBT Population Health Clerkship.

“Our 2018 honoree is a professor and care-giver with expertise and a notable commitment to meeting the needs of underserved and vulnerable populations. His students and colleagues emulate the example he sets, his passion, his unwavering push for equality and social justice,” said Chancellor Collins. “[He embodies] the values and spirit of a clinician-educator who embraces the diversity of thought, competencies and culture of all, and [his] commitment to ensuring that our efforts to build and nurture an inclusive culture remains at the forefront is inspiring.”

The Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in Diversity was presented to the Executive Council Ad Hoc Working Group on Underrepresented Minorities in Academic Medicine. Convened in 2016, the group acted as the catalyst for a series of diversity summits, which have resulted in a solid infrastructure built at UMMS to achieve the full benefits of diversity. An implementation committee chaired by Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medical Education, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine, continues to advance the ongoing diversity initiative.

Chair Catarina Kiefe, PhD, MD, the Melvin S. and Sandra L. Cutler Chair in Biomedical Research and chair and professor of quantitative health sciences, and Deborah Plummer, PhD, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, led the working group. Members are Jennifer Berryman, vice chancellor for communications; Vivian Budnik, PhD, the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Chair and chair and professor of neurobiology; Sonia Chimienti, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine; Robert Finberg, MD, the Richard M. Haidack Professor of Medicine and chair and professor of medicine; Maria Garcia, MD, MPH, professor of medicine; Mark Johnson, MD, PhD, the Maroun Semaan Chair in Neurosurgery and chair and professor of neurosurgery; Mary Lee, MD, the Stoddard Chair of Pediatrics and chair and professor of pediatrics; Brian Lewis, PhD, associate professor of molecular, cell & cancer biology; Joyce Murphy, executive vice chancellor for Commonwealth Medicine; Judith Ockene, PhD, MEd, the Barbara Helen Smith Chair in Preventive & Behavioral Medicine and professor of medicine; Michelle Pugnaire, MD, professor of family medicine & community health; Max Rosen, MD, MPH, chair and professor of radiology; Shlomit Schaal, MD, PhD, chair and professor of ophthalmology; Celia Schiffer, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and director of the Institute for Drug Resistance at UMass Medical School; Vijay Vanguri, MD, associate professor of pathology; and Robert Weinstein, MD, professor of medicine.

“This institution, like virtually every other medical school in the United States, aspires to increase the number of individuals from groups underrepresented in medicine. While the issue itself is well understood, it takes leadership, engagement, commitment and action to implement a multilayered response to a multifaceted problem,” Collins said. “This group’s ability to mobilize support; engage faculty, staff and students; and develop a concrete roadmap to measurable success is an example of what leaders do. The result is an infrastructure demonstrating the potency and power of diverse teams to generate more ideas, make positive changes and help to advance great institutions.”

Dean Flotte presented the 2018 MLK Semester of Service Student Awards. With funding of $500 each, the three projects will facilitate a student day of service to Worcester community organizations, maintain a STEM enrichment program for middle school girls and continue a program that assists young men of color who want to pursue careers in medicine.

Wallace closed the standing-room-only event by leading a rousing rendition of the civil rights anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

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