MINORITY FACULTY DEVELOPMENT | Volume 18 | Spring 2004
Reflection in Action: Building Healthy Communities™
By Melissa Freitas, Northeastern University ’05 and Molly Shenberger, Northeastern University ‘06
The Harvard Medical School (HMS) Milestone Symposium celebration, Reflection in Action: Building Healthy Communities™ was held on February 4, 2004 on the HMS campus at the New Research Building, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur. For all who believe in eliminating social injustices and promoting social change, this event was a monumental success.
Joan Y. Reede, MD, MPH, MS, Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership at HMS, kicked off the event in the amphitheater of the New Research Building by welcoming an excited crowd of 170 middle and high school students. The students represented a number of local and Boston Public schools including Another Course to College, Boston Latin School, Hyde Park High School, John D. O’Bryant School for Mathematics and Science, New Boston Pilot Middle School, Newton Country Day School and Orchard Gardens Pilot School.
Following Dr. Reede’s greeting, the students viewed a short video presentation produced by HMS students Yetsa Tuakli-Wosornu, Scott Thompson, and Nathan Irvin and local teenagers, Jelani Bonilla, Rusulenni Castro and Jamilia King, from the Martha Elliot Community Center. The video consisted of a series of question and answer segments in which the teenagers asked HMS students questions regarding motivation, college, medical school and career choices. The HMS students featured were Christopher Bayne, Denise De Las Nueces, Thomas Hocker, Brandon Lee, Tiffany McNair, Fausto Ortiz, Fola Popoola, Aurora Quaye, Meena Singh, and Adiaha Spinks.
Central to this event was the community participation, involving people from Boston Area Health Education Center (BAHEC), the Boston Public Schools, the Boston Public Health Commission, Citizen Schools, Delta Dental Plan of Massachusetts, Geoff Currier: Creative, the Mayor’s Youth Council, Mission Safe Community Center, MYTOWN, Project: Think Different, Rene Payne Designs, Inc. and S.P.A.C.E. Students in grades seven through nine who lived in Boston, or attended Boston schools, after-school, community and religious programs were contacted early in the school year and were encouraged to submit creative works in a written, visual, or performance medium. A key criterion for submission was that the works reflect one or more of the event themes including civil rights, social justice, health, health disparities, and community engagement. The students’ work was then judged by a panel of “celebrity” judges including Sarah-Ann Shaw, former WBZ-TV reporter, and Doug Most, Editor, The Boston Globe Magazine.
The first place winners in the performance category were invited to showcase their talents for an audience of their peers during the morning program. Among the performances were songs about teen violence, skits reflecting personal experiences, and dances. Jewel Cash, Jr., a first place winner in the performance category, performed her dance routine to the song “I have a Dream” sung by Aretha Franklin in tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Cristina Miranda, a first place winner in the written category for her poem entitled, My Hero, a World Changer, commented on the inspiration for her poem: “I thought about my friend Gabrielle and how she really likes helping other people. So, I figured that if a lot of people tried to be more like her then together we could help our world to be a better place.” Shelia Sullivan, a first place winner in the written category for her short story The Waiting List, explained, “I entered my short story because my mom had two lung transplants, so it was basically to raise awareness about organ transplants and donations.”
Student performance groups included The P.R.I.D.E. Family from BAHEC, the Mission Hill Dance Group, and the Fuerza Youth Leadership Program.
After the performances, all of the attendees participated in a Health Bowl, which was developed by Jabbar R. Bennett, PhD, Science Curriculum and Program Specialist in the Office for Diversity and Community Partnership at HMS, and HMS student Ngozi Iroezi.
During the formal awards ceremony and lunch, Dr. Reede and Julian Bond, Chairman, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), presented the contestants who earned a 1st, 2nd, 3rd place or honorable mention with awards for their creativity. First, second, and third place winners received, in addition to a certificate, cash prizes of $100, $75, or $50. All students received gift bags which contained an embossed HMS binder and an interactive book, We Shall Not Be Moved, by Velma Maia Thomas, which includes reproductions of letters, advertisements, and signs from the Civil Rights Movement. Those who submitted art had their work displayed in the lobby of the New Research Building.
Joseph B. Martin, MD, PhD, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, then introduced the keynote speaker Julian Bond, giving a brief overview of Mr. Bond’s lifetime achievements. Mr. Bond directed his speech, titled 2004: A Race Odyssey, to the youth in the audience, providing them with a sense of hope for the future and encouraging them to go on and do great things. He recounted tales of being a teenager and what it was like to be a young African American man in the 1950s. The audience, young and old, was mesmerized by Mr. Bond’s anecdotes, such as participating in a lunch counter sit-in, examples of the brutality and the hope of that era, and the lessons he learned as a pupil of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The event received positive feedback from HMS faculty, community members, and students. “I thought it was a great success and the children were excited. It should be done more often,” said Survilla Smith, Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer, S.P.A.C.E. An Artistic Community, Inc. Allen Smith, Education Coordinator of BAHEC said, “I thought the morning program was a great opportunity for students to showcase their talents.” At the end of the day, Arline Lewis, from the New Boston Pilot Middle School—a second place winner in the song category who is hoping to become a pediatrician—remarked that, “science is a subject I need to keep up with, starting today.” Another student from Hyde Park High School said, “I learned that all people from all races can be whatever they want to be, no matter what color their skin is.”
HMS’s commitment to diversity was exemplified by all who attended the event, especially the community and the students from the local middle and high schools. Not only did the morning program serve as a catalyst to encourage students from underrepresented populations to explore a career in the medical field, but also it stressed the importance of education, social change, and the elimination of health disparities.