The campus community on Tuesday gathered to recognize three winners of the Martin Luther King, Jr. awards presented by UCSF Chancellor Mike Bishop.
The staff and faculty recipients praised the slain civil rights leader as an inspiration to them in their remarks to an audience filled with family, friends and colleagues. "I am especially honored to be receiving an award named after one of my heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," said Charles Alexander, associate dean for student affairs in the School of Dentistry. "His words and deeds continue to shape my life and destiny on a daily basis. I share his vision of a better world and will continue to make it one of my life goals." Alexander is recognized for, among other things, establishing the nation's first Post Baccaluareate Program exclusively for dental students. The program is designed to boost dental admission test scores and basic science grades of students who intend to practice in underserved communities. In six years, 79 of the 80 students in the program have gained admittance to a dental school. Said Carmen Portillo, associate professor in the Department of Community Health Systems in the School of Nursing: "I am so very honored today not because it is a compliment to be honored by your peers, but because it is very meaningful to receive an award in the name of Dr. Martin Luther King. He reminds me of what I strive for and why I became a nurse. But it is also an inspiration to strive for higher goals as a human being and to give voice to those who believe they do not have a voice. …Dr. King's death was premature and his legacy lives in all of us - who, like him - believe that it is important to reflect a diverse America." Portillo is honored for mentoring, junior faculty and students from underrepresented ethnic groups at UCSF and reaching out to underrepresented communities to support and encourage individual applications to the School of Nursing's graduate programs. Portillo concluded her comments on Tuesday with a phrase that she shares with her students - the same words that Dr. King told a group of students in 1967: "Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are." Sandy Canchola accepted the award and read remarks on behalf of her friend Katherine Lupton, a fourth-year medical student who is out of the country. Lupton has been instrumental as chair of the Native American Health Alliance, recruiting Native students to the School of Medicine, among her other deeds to boost diversity. "A day like today is a special one, because it asks us to think about how far we have come, and how far we have to go," Lupton wrote. "As we look around us and recognize the ongoing efforts in our community to create a more just and equal playing field, it is important to keep our eyes looking forward, to dream big and to continue our efforts until we arrive at a time and place where equal opportunity and limitless potential are the status quo for everyone, not just those lucky enough to be born in the right place or to the right people." Photo by Elisabeth Fall Source: Lisa Cisneros