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Serving our community: 2016 MLK Celebration

January 25, 2016

Liz Walker celebrates grace at MLK celebration

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  • Medical School
Medical School employees, faculty and students were recognized for service with the announcements of this year’s recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Semester of Service Awards

The many ways in which members of the UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care community serve their patients and communities were celebrated at the academic medical center’s 28th Annual Tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Wednesday, Jan. 20.

Sharing personal reflections on Dr. King, keynote speaker Rev. Liz Walker recalled how he went from church to church in her childhood hometown of Little Rock, Ark. in the deep Jim Crow south to spread the civil rights movement by modeling grace.

“I would suggest to you that of all the things Dr. King did, Dr. King was a man who practiced grace,” said Walker, pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church.

Walker’s work as a minister is the latest chapter in a career that includes 11 years of humanitarian work in one of Africa’s most troubled countries and 21 years as a television news anchor on WBZ TV.

Walker encountered amazing grace herself while doing humanitarian relief work in Sudan. During one visit, her delegation’s luggage was lost and the welcoming villagers greeted them with food, clothing and bedding.

“It dawned on me that we had gone to Africa to save Africa, but Africa saved us through grace,” she said. “But you don’t have to go to Sudan, you can go right out here on Route 9 and show somebody some grace.”

UMMS employees, faculty and students were recognized for service with the announcements of this year’s recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Semester of Service Awards for student-initiated community service projects, and the Chancellor’s Awards for Advancing Institutional Excellence in Diversity and Civility.

The MLK Semester of Service Student Awards were presented 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. The four projects will increase the pipeline of men of color in medicine; integrate healing hand massage into cancer care; prepare young adult refugees for citizenship; and fill a sexual-health-education gap for rural youth.

Chancellor Michael F. Collins presented the 2016 Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in Diversity to Milagros Rosal, PhD, professor of medicine in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine. A pioneer in the field of health disparities research, her work has improved the health of communities while deepening understanding of how health interventions can succeed.

“In cities and towns around the commonwealth, hard to reach populations are being reached, and getting help, for diabetes, hypertension, obesity—not just because of  your research, but because of your commitment to seeing research in action,” said Chancellor Collins. “Your work—and this commitment—was a key component in the decision by the NIH to fund our Center for Health Equity Intervention Research.”

Collins further lauded Dr. Milagros as a colleague and mentor. “You have not been content to passively ‘lead by example,’ but instead, have enthusiastically, empathically and effectively helped students and colleagues achieve their fullest potential,” he said. “More than a role model, you have been a change agent, and for being so, we honor you here today.”

Collins presented the 2016 Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in Civility to Anthony Covello, auxiliary services supervisor for Environmental and Building Services, who has been at UMMS since 1981. Characterizing him as a family man a company man, and, most importantly, a good man, Collins said, “What Tony contributes to this school cannot be explained so much as experienced: such as a reassuring wink of his eye; a comforting pat on the back; a respectful nod of his head; a glowing smile; or, if you are really fortunate, a signature ‘Tony C’ hug. “In these subtle, yet profoundly powerful gestures, Tony has given meaning and a well-known face to civility on this campus.”

Collins also announced the medical school’s latest initiative to increase diversity in the student population: It will increase scholarships for students from backgrounds underserved and underrepresented in medicine, beginning with five new awards for academic year 2016–2017.

The chancellor closed with a call to action.

“I invite you to rejoin me in recommitting new energy to creating the most inclusive, just and welcoming campus possible and to supporting the highest ideals of academic medicine,” he said.

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