Healthcare leaders remember Martin Luther King, jr.

Today as we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, jr., I invite you to take a look at reflections on his influence on some key healthcare leaders and clinicians who have strived to create better access and decrease disparities across our healthcare system.

In 2000, the late Dr. John Eisenberg, former director of the Agency for Healthcare Research on Quality, provided these remarks in observance of Dr. King’s birthday. In them he recalls the inequality he observed growing up in Memphis, where African-American patients entered Baptist Hospital through the back door. He also notes the role Medicare and Medicaid had played in facilitating hospital desegration – and also the substantial disparities that continued to this day.

In January of 2011, DMC Sinai-Grace hospital provided this fascinating video interview of Dr. William G. Anderson, who first met Dr. King in college during the 1940’s.  In the interview Dr. Anderson also describes his experiences and struggles for equal access to the medical profession.

In October of 2011, Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Maurey, CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provided this editorial in the Seattle Times.  In it she describes her excitement in meeting Dr. King at the age of 7, as well as the influence his perspectives had on her own work.

In her editorial she also mentions two of Dr. King’s quotes.  One of these, from a speech he gave to the Medical Committee for Human Rights, and has become familiar within healthcare circles: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane.”

The other quote is not nearly as well-known, but should be, given the persistence of health disparities:   “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”

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About Andrew Garman

Chief Executive Officer, NCHL; Professor, Health Systems Management Department, Rush University

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