Northwestern Medicine Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. During 36th Annual Humanitarian Awards Program
- Samer Attar, MD, orthopaedic surgery, was recognized for volunteering at a secret hospital in war-torn Syria to treat those injured in the conflict.
- June M. McKoy, MD, preventive medicine/geriatrics, received an award for her work with numerous community organizations to help Chicago residents in need, from children to seniors.
- Susan Ratzer, finance/treasury, was honored for providing care packages to U.S. soldiers through an organization called West Point Moms Bake, as well as for her efforts to provide skiing lessons to people with disabilities.
Pastor Chris Harris of Bright Star Church Chicago provided the keynote address. Pastor Harris has worked to establish educational enrichment and anti-violence programs, including the Bronzeville Dream Center, aimed at helping the community cope with the emotional trauma of violence. Speaking at the program, Pastor Harris said he wanted to make the legacy of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. personal to each individual in the audience.
“Commit to social change,” he said. “We need to walk out of this room saying, ‘What more can we do?’”
Harris told the audience he wanted them to imagine they were in his church in the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood. Shouts of “Amen!” filtered through the crowd, while audience members were asked clasp hands and share words of inspiration.
Speaking after the presentation of the Humanitarian Awards, Harris noted that each recipient, like King, made a sacrifice to make the world a better place. Bringing about change isn’t always going to be simple, he said, and the process is bound to get “bumpy.”
“What made Dr. King special?” Harris said. “It’s because he embraced the pain of his purpose. We now have the responsibility to embrace the pain of our purpose.” Harris talked about the recent "Black Lives Matter" movement continuing King's legacy, while he also shared his own experiences to bring about social change, including working to improve Chicago’s schools and strengthening the ties among the city’s different racial and religious communities.
He also talked about his church’s partnership with Northwestern Medicine, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and The University of Chicago Medicine to establish the Bronzeville Dream Center, an organization that works to prevent violence and provide counseling and emotional support to those affected by it.
The inspiration to start the center came as he heard stories about people who had been killed or injured in Chicago but saw a lack of resources to help people who live with violence and its effects. In sharing his story, Harris challenged others to ask how they can make a difference—and then do it.
“Who will stand up, who will step up and who will speak up?” he said. “I want you to leave here not just inspired but also informed and challenged.”
Harris shared his message not just through his speech but also through music. A singer who has contributed vocals to more than 15 recordings and has performed throughout the world, Harris joined the Regina Puckett-Kent Gospel Choir of Northwestern Memorial Hospital to help close the program on a musical note.
You can learn more about the organizations that our Humanitarian Award winners support by visiting these websites:
- The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)
- Doctors Without Borders
- Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.)
- American Cancer Society
- Adaptive Adventures
- SouthEastern Wisconsin Adaptive Ski Program
- West Point Moms Bake – To either pass along the contact for a deployed military person (any branch of military) or to inquire about becoming a baker on a WPMB team, contact Sue Hancock at firstname.lastname@example.org