Friday, February 18, 2011

MLK event speaker offers insight on education reform

HONORING MLK: From left, Gottlieb, Derri Shtasel, MD, director of Ambulatory and Public/Community Psychiatry at MGH, Canada and Davis

In addition to honoring a legendary civil rights leader, Partners HealthCare’s annual event, “A Celebration of the Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” aims to inspire the Partners and MGH communities to uphold King’s values of equality and justice for all people. This year’s event, held Feb. 11 in the Richard B. Simches Research Center, featured award acknowledgements, musical selections and remarks by keynote speaker Geoffrey Canada. President and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a New York City-based nonprofit organization that offers educational, social and medical services for underserved children and families, Canada was prominently featured in “Waiting for Superman,” a widely acclaimed 2010 documentary film about the U.S. education system.

Jeff Davis, senior vice president of Human Resources, welcomed guests to the morning event and served as master of ceremonies. As a highlight to the annual celebration, Carlyene Prince-Erickson, director of MGH Employee Education and Leadership Development, acknowledged three of this year’s six Partners YMCA Achievers: William Anim, a histology supervisor in MGH Pathology; Joan C. Brown, a project specialist in the MGH Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine; and Lonzenar Toppin, a unit coordinator at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. The Achiever Awards honor exemplary employees from diverse backgrounds for both their professional achievements and dedication to community service.

Following the recognition of the three award recipients, attendees were treated to musical performances by the James P. Timilty Middle School Chorus and Kelby Khan, the chorus leader. Gary L. Gottlieb, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Partners HeathCare, then introduced Canada.

In his talk, Canada – whose first teaching job was in downtown Boston – discussed the struggles faced by poor children and the need for education reform. “There is a group of kids who get behind from birth,” he said. “And the evidence is clear – if you start behind, you stay behind.”

As one example of the obstacles faced by underprivileged children, Canada shared research findings that children from poor backgrounds were exposed to 13 million words by the time they entered school, while children from middle- and upper-class backgrounds were exposed to 45 million.

Despite obstacles like these, Canada affirmed that every child is capable of learning and being successful in school. He stressed that learning and being successful in school do not depend on socioeconomic background or inherent ability but on the resources and opportunities made available to students through the education system and the time and understanding invested in them by educators, administrators and parents.

He ended the presentation by reading his poem, “Don’t Blame Me,” which poignantly emphasized the need for everyone to take responsibility for ensuring the success of America’s youth. To close the event, Davis thanked Canada on behalf of the hospital and presented him with a desk box featuring an image of the Bulfinch Building.

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