MLK Day Reaffirms Our Dedication to Health Equity

Published January 13, 2023

Image of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman ... ”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King spoke out against the health injustices Black and brown people face in the United States. It happened on March 25, 1966, in Chicago during the Medical Committee for Human Rights Convention.

Dear Jacobs School Community –

As I reflect on the life and work of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., today, I remember one quote in particular: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman.” Throughout my career, I have drawn inspiration from his message of inclusivity; I hope you will, too. 

It has been more than five decades since Dr. King’s death, and while much progress has been made towards achieving the equitable society of his dreams, sadly, we still have much work to do.

Looking at Buffalo in particular, events of the past few years, such as the COVID pandemic, the Tops shooting, and the recent Christmas blizzard further highlight the inequities that pervade our community.

The university’s Community Health Equity Research Institute, which conducts research that addresses the root causes of health disparities while developing and testing innovative solutions to eliminate health inequities in the region, reports some shocking statistics, which echo those inequities described by the CDC on a national level.

  • African Americans who live on the East Side of Buffalo are more likely to have serious, chronic, and often preventable diseases with a rate of premature mortality that is 300% higher than whites who live in the Buffalo metro area.

  • Three out of five African Americans living in Buffalo die prematurely, twice the rate of whites.

  • African Americans have higher hospitalization rates for most major diagnoses including cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

  • African Americans in Buffalo live in neighborhoods where employment opportunities are fewer, housing stock is of worse quality, lead exposure is greater, neighborhoods are less walkable, there is less access to healthy food, schools are poorer quality, and recreational facilities are poorer quality.

As an academic medical center – and as a member of this affected community – the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo is committed to addressing health disparities and the underlying societal factors that contribute to those inequities.

There are a number of impressive initiatives already underway here, including: the UB Veggie Van study, in which researchers are helping partner organizations to start or expand their mobile produce markets; the annual Igniting Hope Conference, which brings together leaders of the medical school and the African-American community to find ways to reverse the effect of structural racism; and the Beyond the Knife lecture series, hosted by the Department of Surgery, which was launched in 2021 as part of the department’s Anti-Racism and Health Equity Initiative.

This passionate activism demonstrates a strong commitment to health equity, expanding access to care, engaging our communities, and connecting patients to the resources and tools they need to overcome barriers to better health.
Dr. King brought profound hope and healing to America. His dedication to justice and integrity embodies what we aspire to accomplish through our work.
Today, I look to each of you to follow in his footsteps to be leaders and change makers.

Together we, too, can change history. The work we do through practice, innovations in medical education, advocacy, research, and community engagement is how we will drive this mission and uphold his legacy.

With best regards,

Allison Brashear, MD, MBA
Vice President for Health Sciences and
Dean, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences