Martin Luther King Speaks to MGH Institute Community

Jan 16, 2011

Wouldn't’ this have been a great headline on the Institute website?  At about the same time that MLK was assassinated, the Institute was in its earliest formative years.  Wouldn't’t it have been something if Dr. King had been able to have given the first commencement address or speak at the Schwartz rounds?   His message, I am sure, would have been one that focused on urgency for bringing access to all, eliminating disparities and barriers to health care, and assuring that the needs of all people and all providers were addressed.  


Earlier today I heard a talk regarding Dr. King’s message.  The speaker, Dr. Anne Bonnyman, an Episcopal Priest at Trinity Church Boston, referred to a letter that King wrote while imprisoned in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.   A portion of that letter reads:


"I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta, and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham.  Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. "

(Source:  King, ML (1964), Why We Can’t Wait. Penguin Group:  New York, NY.)


This quote really could be directed to our faculty and students at the Institute.   To me, it serves as a reminder that we are preparing health providers and leaders for the whole world.   Our students have had the great opportunity to study with and learn from excellent preceptors and mentors in some of Boston’s (and the nation’s) greatest institutions.   This privilege is afforded, I believe, not so that they can all continue their professional roles in this remarkable environment.   In fact, I believe a true measure of our institutional success lies in our graduates’ ability to take what they have learned here, and then to apply these learnings wherever they are most needed.


Are we encouraging our students to use their cutting edge professional education to serve the world?  Are we providing regular, visible, and substantive opportunities for our students to bring their newly formed skills to those places in our city, nation, and the world that are most likely to be transformed by our care?   In each of our programs and disciplines, are we consistently highlighting issues of equal access, disparity, health literacy, and prevention?  Are we assuring that our students leave us with the ability to respectfully and competently apply their skills and knowledge throughout every neighborhood in Boston, and in Haiti, in New Orleans, and other areas where excellent healthcare is not easily found? 


Our new strategic map will provide opportunity and direction for us, regarding those issues that Dr. King raised over 50 years ago. During 2011 (and beyond)  I hope that each and every faculty member and student within the Institute will:

  •  spend time talking about their opportunity to transform health care for everyone,
  • discuss issues of health care in the context of justice, and
  • always remember that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”   





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