MLK Health Equity Symposium -- Join Us

January 17, 2018

To:Penn Medicine Faculty, Students, and Staff

From:J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD
Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD

Re: MLK Health Equity Symposium

As you may recall, we have chosen to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., with an annual symposium on Health Equity. Our program this year is especially significant, and we write to remind you that we will come together as a community on next Wednesday, January 24, as we welcome Dr. Howard Koh, former Assistant Secretary of Health, as our fourth annual MLK Speaker.

In our professional lifetimes, we cannot remember a more pivotal moment in our journey for health equity and social justice. Dr. King is often quoted as saying, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” While we hope that this prediction is true, it is not a matter of physics but rather a trajectory that will be shaped by our policies, our values, and most importantly, our actions. Health equity and social justice are fundamental tenets of medical professionalism. As members of the Penn community, we are compelled to uphold and champion these principles.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s tragic assassination. Despite some progress over these fifty years, poverty, discrimination, and other social determinants of health remain deeply entrenched in our society. At places like Penn, we have powerful talent, tools, and commitment to lessen disparities in health and health care, and we are as determined as ever to marshal these resources to achieve health equity. In doing so, we listen to the voices of hope, not hatred. We are proud to be a community inspired by Dr. King’s vision.

As reflected in the Penn Compact and in Penn Medicine’s Strategic Plan, inclusion is a core driver of progress in all mission areas and helps to ensure continued innovation and impact. As medical professionals, we remain dedicated to the best care for all of our patients, regardless of background or belief, and to developing new strategies to tackle the complex ailments of the human condition. There is no doubt that we can best accomplish this goal as an inclusive and diverse community.

Recently, Tom Brokaw provided an eloquent reminder of what is best about our health care system. Reflecting on his personal experience of illness, he wrote in The New York Times that the health system he encountered is “a universe of scientific genius and selfless compassion populated by what seems to be the most diverse population in the country.” We would add that our efforts to achieve health equity offer our scientific community and our country a unifying vision. It provides a rich body of knowledge to inform our national debate about justice and equality, and a model for how to educate the next generation of leaders.

Now more than ever, everyone’s contribution is important in addressing the health challenges of our nation. We encourage you to join us on Jan. 24 for the MLK Symposium. Health Equity week in April will be another touchpoint for our community to deepen its understanding of these issues, as we join together to make our country a better, healthier place for all its people.

If you have not already done so, you can register for the Symposium here. For those who cannot attend in person, the program will be live-streamed on the OID homepage