Former surgeon general inspired by MLK
January 18, 2010 —
With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., people remember the bus boycotts. They remember the March on Washington and the millions who could suddenly share a dream.
What many don’t realize were his efforts in the fight for equality in health care.
King fought for civil rights until his assassination in 1968. He once said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” It is under this premise that Dr. David Satcher, the 16th surgeon general of the United States, has worked.
Satcher was the keynote speaker last Wednesday in a ceremony to honor 15 recipients of the MLK Scholarship, which was awarded jointly by the Saginaw, Bay and Midland community foundations. The recipients were area high school seniors who had demonstrated a commitment to understanding and tolerance, ideals that King lived his life by.
Satcher himself showed his commitment to these ideals through his work. He was the first surgeon general to release a report on mental health, which sought to remove the stigmas associated with that form of disease. He also has worked at length to improve equal access to health care and eliminate disparities in disease prevalence between ethnicities.
Another high point in Satcher’s work as surgeon general came with his pushes to halt the obesity epidemic, which he now warns threatens to become a pandemic. Obesity and other preventable diseases are responsible for an estimated 75 percent to 80 percent of all health care– related costs, Satcher said.
He pointed out that having strong communities where children can play outside without fear of violence is a major contributor to fighting the obesity problem. Experts recommend that people get 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week.
In closing, Dr. Satcher challenged the recipients to be a part of a “system of integrity” that would benefit people of all types. He quoted Brandon Mays, former president of MLK’s alma mater, Morehouse College.
He said, “Not failure, but low aim, is a sin. Let us not be guilty of low aim.”