SMU Moves Forward on Diversity, Celebrates Black History Month
Dr. Michael Lenoir, an Oakland physician who has served East Bay residents for more than 30 years recently considered the role African American doctors and nurses played in the Dallas, Texas, neighborhood where he grew up.
“Black physicians were not only the healers in our community, but they had to fight for social justice as well,” Lenoir said before he took the stage as the featured speaker at Samuel Merritt University’s Black History Month Celebration February 25. “A healthcare provider is about social engagement with the community. Our profession is not just our service to the community -- our service goes beyond that.”
It was a sentiment shared by more than 100 physicians, educators, and students who visited SMU for the second annual gathering hosted by the University. The event, organized by Margrette Peterson, executive assistant to President Sharon Diaz, was an effort to both celebrate cultural diversity on campus and acknowledge the role SMU graduates will have in changing the healthcare industry.
“I’m proud to see Samuel Merritt University hosting these kinds of events,” said Linda Ricketts, an Oakland educator. “I think it helps showcase that the University is serious about diversity, and it lets students know that diversity – and exposure to other cultures – is critically important their work.”
Inside the Health Education Center,students from the Betty D. Gadling Fine Arts Academy provided a musical performance under the direction of SMU Regent Dr. Alvin McLean. Dr. Cornelius Hopper presented the 2014 Diversity Excellence Award named in his honor to the University’s Pride Committee.
“This celebration,” said Hopper, who served on the SMU Board of Regents for 13 years, “marks an opportunity for us collectively and introspectively to examine the behavior of ourselves, our institutions and our organizations.”
President Diaz, who was presented with a piece of artwork made by an Oakland artist in honor of her support and commitment to diversity programs, said she was moved by the gesture. “For many personal reasons, I’m very passionate about this work,” Diaz said. “This piece will help remind me to keep the path.”
In his final remarks to attendees, Lenoir addressed the healthcare disparities he still witnesses among African Americans. He was proud to see more minority doctors and nurses enter the profession, and yet he noted statistics showed patients of color still did not receive equal healthcare treatment. He said he was hopeful institutions like SMU would help to close the disparity gap.
“As the song goes,” Lenoir said, “‘We’ve come a long way baby, but we’ve still got a long way to go.’”