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Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

By Stan Thompson, MD, Chief Clinical Officer, LifePoint Group, and Chair, TeamHealth Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I plan to make what has now become an annual trip back to my hometown Memphis, Tennessee. As you may know, Memphis has the unfortunate legacy of being the city where the great civil rights leader was assassinated. Memphis, however, has not run away from this ugly part of its history. It is quite the contrary. Memphis has erected monuments, has many murals and celebrates Dr. King and the civil rights movement not just on the third Monday of January, but many other days throughout the year. Also, in the conversion of the Loraine Motel, where Dr. King was killed, Memphis has arguably one of the best civil rights museums in the United States.

Rewards come with perseverance

When I was in medical school, my apartment was located downtown, exactly one block west of The Civil Rights Museum. When I looked out of my window, I couldn’t see the building because my view was blocked by taller buildings directly across the street. However, the museum projects a laser light into the sky from the exact point on the balcony where Dr. King was struck down. Often, while trying to find the energy to study in the middle of the night, I would go to my window and look at that light. I would reflect on the sacrifice, determination and courage it took for Dr. King to do all he did. I would revel in that I, being an African American, would likely not even be in medical school at the University of Tennessee if not for Dr. King. In those reflections, my struggles with pathophysiology wouldn’t seem so great. An overwhelming sense of duty to honor Dr. King with my success would give me the energy to return to my studies.

Creating a more inclusive and equitable world

Regardless of race, creed, religion and more, we all have benefitted from the sacrifice of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” His fight against injustice has likely decreased unjust experiences in some way, shape, form or fashion for you and your loved ones. This Monday and many days after, I hope that we all reflect on what Dr. King did for our country in his fight against injustice. We still have a way to go, but I refuse to believe Dr. King’s work was in vain, despite the well-publicized acts of social injustice we have seen over the past few years. His ultimate sacrifice should spark us all to have some level of personal sacrifice, to stand up against injustice. Let’s all look for opportunities to make our corner of the world more inclusive and equitable for all. Those additive corners will make for a more equitable world.

Learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. Day here.