Honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King
My message today on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is one of peace, hope and healing. Although this holiday comes at a time when so many of our Duke Health colleagues are laden with heavy hearts, time and again I see you showing up, rising to the occasion, and fulfilling our purpose of healing humankind. For your unwavering commitment, I say thank you!
Many of us, too, need healing right now. From COVID-related patient surges, to colleagues and families falling ill, to racism and social injustices, team members are suffering from painful and dispiriting events that are disrupting so many of our lives and those in our communities. Despite the adversity of what feels like unforgiving circumstances, you excel. In doing so, you embody many of the values championed by Dr. King that we celebrate today – courage, compassion and community.
Your demonstration of strength during these storms is indeed exceptional and admirable. Just this past weekend, a remarkable scene unfolded at the Duke University Hospital Emergency Department. In an emergency situation when patients and team members were under threat, our people rallied together, acting swiftly and courageously to keep patients, their loved ones and each other safe. We cannot forget that this moment ended in tragedy for a patient who was in our care. We certainly grieve the loss of this human being’s life and are grateful for the bravery our team members and responders displayed during such an extraordinary event. As you go about your day, I ask that you pause for peace for our colleagues and for healing in our community. In healing, as all of us know, there is hope.
The times in which Dr. King lived, worked and helped others were no less daunting, no less tumultuous. Reflecting on the chaos of those times, Dr. King saw hope in the strength of the community. Our ability to act together around shared values and a common sense of purpose means we can achieve extraordinary things. The question, as Dr. King memorably put it, is simply, “Where do we go from here?”
My Duke Health colleagues, you are already showing us the way. Yes, we have a great deal of work ahead of us, but the destination is clear. Together, we are striving to create a community that is stronger, healthier and more just. This spring will mark two years of our Moments to Movement endeavor. Through Moments to Movement we are taking meaningful steps toward becoming a more diverse, equitable and just organization. And we are acting on our commitment to end systemic racism within our walls and serve as a beacon of belonging and mutual respect in our community.
Today, as we honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, I also want to recognize and celebrate you, our Duke Health community, for the progress we have made. And in this moment of seemingly insurmountable challenges, I wish you peace. You deserve this and more.
Again, I express my deep, heartfelt gratitude to you for all you do, day to day.
A. Eugene Washington, MD
Chancellor for Health Affairs, Duke University
President and CEO, Duke University Health System