‘An opportunity to give back’: OUWB community honors Martin Luther King Jr.
An image of students volunteering at Capuchin Soup Kitchen
Students helped prepare food at Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit.

From distributing food to those in need to sorting medical supplies and listening to inspiring words of an award-winning actor, the OUWB community took time on Monday to serve others and honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Nearly 30 OUWB medical students volunteered at Gleaners Community Food Bank’s Detroit Distribution Center while another dozen or so representatives of the OUWB community helped serve breakfast at Baldwin Center in Pontiac. Both were to the benefit of people in need.

The volunteers on Monday were in addition to another 30 from OUWB who volunteered on Saturday at World Medical Relief in Southfield while another six helped prepare and serve food at Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit.

Still others attended Oakland University’s 31st annual Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Awards Celebration that included an inspirational message about the ability of community to enact change.

“I’m so proud of our OUWB community,” said Tonya Bailey, Ph.D., associate dean, Diversity & Inclusion and Community Engagement.

“The work that we’re doing helps ensure Dr. King’s legacy – as well as many other civil rights leaders and humanitarians – and reminds us of what we can accomplish together.”

Trixy Hall, coordinator, Graduate Programs and Community Outreach, said it’s all about giving back and remembering King. Hall coordinates the various events with OUWB’s community partners for faculty, staff, and students to volunteer on Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service.

“We want to make sure we are doing our part in the community,” she said. “It’s important to show that we do honor and appreciate all that he gave us.”

‘An opportunity…to give back’

An image of a student at Gleaners
Sachin Pathangey, M1, sorts items at Gleaners in Detroit.

Medical students who volunteered at Gleaners helped prepare food for distribution. They also sorted items and helped load the food into vehicles.

Mollie Allard, agency relations manager, Gleaners, said she expected the group would help serve 60 to 80 families on Monday. Having volunteers like those from OUWB is critical, she said.

“We rely so heavily on the volunteer effort to make our everyday work happen,” she said. “Having a big group…makes such a big difference, especially on our distribution days when we’re trying to give out as much food as we can.”

Chennai Marcus, M1, was among the volunteers. She said that during her childhood, she was the beneficiary of such services.

“This is an opportunity for me to give back, especially since I don’t have to go through that experience now,” she said. “I understand why people need this and the importance of volunteers.”

Hoon Oh, M1, said volunteering at such events is especially important to him as a future physician.

“It really reminds you of the reason you went into medicine — to serve,” he said. “The fact that we’re doing it with other OUWB students is really just spectacular. It gives us time to really reflect.”

Breakfast at Baldwin Center

An image of students volunteering at Baldwin Center
OUWB students helped prepare breakfast at Baldwin Center.

In Pontiac, students spent the morning at one of OUWB’s long-standing community partners, Baldwin Center.

Baldwin Center is a non-profit organization that has been providing food, clothing, after-school programs, and more to local people in need for over 40 years.

On Jan. 16, the students cooked breakfast to be distributed to more than 100 people.

“Since we’re given the time off, I think it’s best to, if you’re able to, give back,” said Victoria Whiting, M3. “We have the ability in our schedule, and that’s what this day is for.”

Getting involved with the community, said Whiting, is helpful for a future in medicine.

“I think you have a responsibility to understand the community you’re serving,” she said. “And the more you interact with your neighbors, the better at providing treatment you are.”

Maggie Bailey, M1, said that she found the opportunity to be a great way to get out of the classroom and into the community.

“As an M1, I’m in the classroom most of the time. It’s nice to spend some time with the community and my classmates,” she said.

Kaitlyn Quach, M1, echoed a similar sentiment.

“It’s hard to find opportunities to get away [from the classroom] sometimes. So every time there is, we jump at it,” she said.

“And this is a great way to do it.”

OUWB’s Stephan Sharf Dean Duane Mezwa, M.D., and Jean Szura, Ph.D., director of Service Learning were also in the kitchen making gravy, biscuits, scrambled eggs and sausage.

“This is the perfect example of why it’s more than just learning the science of medicine,” said Mezwa. “It’s also the art and practice of taking care of our fellow man, and being out here and volunteering is a way that we can do that.”

Heather Duenas, Baldwin Center’s Deputy Director, said that it was great to see OUWB students and faculty return.

“Every individual that a future doctor, nurse, or anybody in the medical field is going to come in contact with is going to have a different backstory,” she said. “When you gain that empathy and compassion…that’s really big in the medical field.”

‘A participatory democracy’

Oakland University’s 31st annual Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Awards Celebration welcomed more than 700 people to campus.

Established in 1993, the event pays tribute to King for his achievements on behalf of civil rights. The awards honor students who have contributed to his legacy of interracial understanding and goodwill. In the past three decades, more than 100 students have been awarded Keeper of the Dream scholarships totaling more than $500,000.

Award-winning actor and best-selling author Hill Harper served as the keynote speaker. Harper currently stars as Dr. Marcus Andrews on “The Good Doctor” on ABC. He is also co-executive producing “Protector of the Gods,” a trilogy film project which follows three of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs. Harper previously starred on “CSI: New York” and Showtime's award-winning series “Homeland,” along with headlining HLN’s “How It Really Happened with Hill Harper.”

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His primary message centered on the need for community members to recognize they can enact change — especially when they get involved and people work together.

“Our democracy…is a participatory democracy,” said Harper. “But it only works if we participate.”

He urged the audience to essentially remember the words of King as they consider whether or not they can make a difference.

“I would submit to you that Dr. King would believe that you and I are not operating at the level of force or energy that’s required to move our community and our country in the direction it needs to go.”

“I would submit to you that we need to up our energy…up our ability to speak truth to power, up our unity, up our community” and force change, he added.

Several people from the OUWB community were in attendance.

Ben Schwartz, M.D., president, Corewell Health East, was among them. He said it’s a priority for him to address social detriments of health, and events like Monday’s serve as a good reminder of an overall mission.

“In order for us to make our communities more well, we need to understand them better,” said Schwartz. “As the speakers today noted, it starts with multiple small efforts…not a big promise of action.”

Schwartz also commended OU for being “such an amazing leader in this space,” and the students who were recognized for the scholarships they received.

“It’s certainly very special for all of us to be part of this event,” he said.

Mezwa, after spending the morning at Baldwin Center, also attended. He called Harper’s presentation “phenomenal.”

“He was very motivational,” he said. “Plus, it’s just a great event to honor students who are truly special. The fact that OU has been doing it for more than 30 years is pretty great.”

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