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Finding Inspiration in An Unflinching Examination of Martin Luther King’s Sacrifices

Lewis Katz School of Medicine | MLK Day of Activism and Service

News January 29, 2024

A speaker stands at the podium for the MLK Day of Activism and Service

Do not become complacent.

That was the overarching message of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine’s annual MLK Day, incorporating service in our everyday lives.

To honor and celebrate MLK Day, the Lewis Katz School of Medicine Office of Health Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (OHEDI) and the Community Service Board of the Student Government Association collaborated to create an event entitled MLK Day Activism and Service: More Than a Day.

The crowd in attendance at the Lewis Katz annual MLK Day eventHeld on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 15, at the Temple Performing Arts Center, the event included an insightful spoken word poem by Najya A. Williams, MD ’25, Keynote speaker Solomon Jones, an engaging Q & A session, and a stirring rendition of James Weldon Johnson's “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” long referred to as the “Black National Anthem,” sang by Shango-Jamal Lewis.

Melanie A. Cosby, PhD, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Lewis Katz School of Medicine Office of Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and an Assistant Professor at the Center for Urban Bioethics opened the ceremony with a message of remembrance and reflection. Most notable was when she spoke about the “why” of this day. “So, why is it that we’re here today to commemorate the life and legacy of a revolutionary and activist, a Baptist preacher, a servant leader?” Cosby continued “We will spend our time reflecting on his life, learning more about present-day challenges, making connections between then and now, including how history repeats itself. We will consider how service, activism, and action show up today with the hope that as each of us departs, we are ignited with a sense of hope, along with a renewed sense of urgency and recommitment to engage in service, activism, and action for more than a day.” After her remarks, Dr.  Cosby welcomed Amy J. Goldberg, MD, FACS, the Marjorie Joy Katz Dean of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine and George S. Peters, MD, and Louise C. Peters Chair and Professor of Surgery to the stage to offer a few words.

Dean Goldberg noted the importance of the day's message and theme “The discussion we will have today is an opportunity for us to delve deeper into the issues that peA team of planners for the MLK Day eventrsist in our society and explore ways to actively work toward positive change,” said Amy J. Goldberg, MD, FACS, the Marjorie Joy Katz Dean of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine and George S. Peters, MD, and Louise C. Peters Chair and Professor of Surgery. “Through these conversations, we can challenge our own perspectives, learn from one another, and ultimately make a difference in the world around us.”

Following Dean Goldberg's remarks was the centerpiece of the program, a resolute lecture by Solomon Jones, a Temple graduate and a national voice on race and politics. Jones is a Philadelphia radio host, a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the author of 11 books, including his most recent, Ten Lives, Ten Demands – Life-and-Death Stories, and a Black Activist’s Blueprint for Racial Justice.

Words were never minced about the pervasiveness of racism in the United States and his impatience with anyone who tolerates it during a nearly half-hour-long speech and the question-and-answer session that followed.

With remarkable clarity, he described a pivotal day from 28 years ago when he had a substance use disorder remembering the compassion, he was shown by two young female doctors. In contrast, he also remembered the contempt of a senior white male doctor.

“I’ve often wondered over the years if the disdFour event attendees stand in front of a presentation screenain he showed for me in that moment was driven by race, by class, or by his annoyance with my addiction and social status,” Jones said.

He shared the anecdote, in part, as a way of erecting a new framework for the audience’s perspective. Racism, he told them, was as much a part of healthcare as it is the criminal justice system and the underfunded school districts where Black students are the majority.

“Even when you correct for income and education level, we have worse health outcomes than our white counterparts,” Jones said. “That’s not lack of resources, that’s racism. And it shows up when doctors are less patient in listening to us, more dismissive of our concerns, less caring about our outcomes, less aware of our humanity. And it shows up in the smallest interactions, interactions that stick with us for the rest of our lives. Interactions like the one I had with that doctor at Temple Hospital.”

Throughout his speech, Jones revisited a question again and again: What are you willing to risk?

“King risked everything because justice cannot wait,” he said. “King risked everything because freedom cannot wait. King risked everything because equality cannot wait. King risked everything because he was left with no choice. But you can risk something because you have a choice. You can look at the service you’ll do today as a prelude to something bigger. You can see the good you’ll do today as the path to something better. You can see the folks you helped today as the first of many more. But if you truly want to do what King did, it’s gonna cost you something. And the question you have to ask yourself is this: What are you willing to risk? Because with great risk comes great reward. With great risk comes equality. With great risk comes justice.”

Reaching out across the city

Amongst several other MLK Day programs, the Physician Assistant Program Class of 2025 assembled more than 200 “Blessing Bags,” which were later delivered to The Everywhere Project, a nonprofit, for distribution during its weekly outreaches at Love Park in Center City and along Kensington Avenue in Kensington, as well as during its mobile assistance on Saturday nights.

The endeavor was led by Lacey Claire Jorgensen, PA-S ’25, Class Historian and Outreach Chair; Alexis Rowan, PA-S ’25, Class Treasurer; and Revti Patel, PA-S ’25, Class President. The entire class helped assemble the bags, which included snacks, index cards with encouraging messages written on them, Band-Aids, Neosporin, gauze, lip balm, water bottles, and socks donated by Bombas.

While many of the items were contributions, Jorgensen said much of the undertaking was “made possible by allocated funds from the university.”

As healthcare continues to evolve, Dr. King’s message continues to resonate with the Katz students, faculty, and staff “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?"