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MLK lecture celebrates diversity, inclusion, equity

Jan. 22, 2020, 1:24 PM

From left are VUMC Chief Diversity Office Andre Churchwell, MD; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award honorees Adriana Bialostozky, MD, and Jannyse Starks, DNP, FNP-BC; keynote speaker Phyllis Sharps, PhD, RN; and honoree Tamika Hudson, DNP, APRN, FNP-C; and School of Nursing Dean Linda Norman, DSN, RN.
From left are VUMC Chief Diversity Officer Andre Churchwell, MD; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award honorees Adriana Bialostozky, MD, and Jannyse Starks, DNP, FNP-BC; keynote speaker Phyllis Sharps, PhD, RN; honoree Tamika Hudson, DNP, APRN, FNP-C; and School of Nursing Dean Linda Norman, DSN, RN. (photo by Susan Urmy)

by Kathy Whitney

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture was held on Monday and for the third year commenced with the United Voices of Vanderbilt choir’s stirring medley of inspirational songs.

André Churchwell, MD, chief diversity officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center and interim vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer for Vanderbilt University, welcomed the crowd and introduced the first of three recipients of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award: Adriana Bialostozky, MD, whom Churchwell said “is at the forefront of pushing culturally competent care in the Division of General Pediatrics.”

Rolanda Johnson, PhD, RN, assistant dean for Academics and Diversity and Inclusion for the School of Nursing, introduced the additional recipients, Tamika Hudson, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, and Jannyse Starks, DNP, FNP-BC. “As nurse practitioners and educators, our honorees understood that poverty prohibits people, especially children and elderly, from receiving multiple life-sustaining goods and services…they proceeded with a poverty simulation program as a requirement for all faculty and students.”

The award is presented annually to a staff or faculty member(s) in the School of Medicine or the School of Nursing who emulates the principles of Dr. King through his or her work.

Vanderbilt University Schools of Medicine and Nursing, in conjunction with the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Series, presented keynote speaker Phyllis Sharps, PhD, RN. She was introduced by Linda Norman, DSN, RN, dean of the School of Nursing.

Sharps is the Elsie M. Lawler Endowed Chair, associate dean for Community Programs and Initiatives and professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. She began her address by recounting her experience of traveling to Washington, D.C., with her family in 1963 to hear Dr. King deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“My sister and I were there among thousands of people. It was more people than I had seen in my whole life. The spirit and the feeling of that day is something I’ve never forgotten,” she said.

Sharps has dedicated much of her career to examining the consequences of intimate partner violence (IPV) on the physical and mental health of pregnant women, infants and very young children. She has been the principal investigator for a $3.5 million five-year research grant funded by NINR, Domestic Violence Enhanced Home Visitation — DOVE, which tested a public health nurse home visit intervention to reduce effects of IPV among pregnant women and their newborns. Infant mortality and mental health symptoms, particularly in populations of color, have been constant themes around her work.

“Much of the way I proceeded in research was influenced by being a research assistant on several projects, working on interdisciplinary teams, and often I was the only nurse researcher on the team and helped people know the contributions that we as nurse researchers can make.”

Currently, she is the principal investigator for a second five-year NIH/NCID $4.2 million grant, “Perinatal Nurse Home Visitation Enhanced with mHealth,” which tests the use of computer tablets for screening and intervening for IPV in the home. Most recently, Sharps received a two-year, $1.2 million grant from the Health Services Resources Administration (HRSA), “Advanced Nurse Education Workforce (ANEW),” which provides scholarships to primary care nurse practitioner students preparing to work in underserved areas with underserved populations.

“We are in a time when there is some question about the validity and the purpose of science. Science is to look at and answer questions; it generates knowledge, which is power; and it deals mainly with facts. Sometimes science and religion get confused. Religion interprets; it is wisdom, and it deals mainly with values. Dr. King reminds us that science and religion are not rivals. They can co-exist.”

To see a story about the MLK Day Morning Event, go here.

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