Northwestern celebrated the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a full slate of DREAM Week presentations and discussions.
During the week after the holiday, Northwestern hosted a series of panel discussions, documentary screenings, service activities and a student oratorical contest. The week of programming was a collaborative effort from Northwestern University, including the Feinberg School of Medicine, Pritzker School of Law and Kellogg School of Management.
One panel featured medical and legal professionals describing how they integrated advocacy work into their careers. For Karen Sheehan, ‘89 MD, MPH, ’92 GME, professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Emergency Medicine and Preventive Medicine, this work started when she was a student at Feinberg.
During her first pediatric rotation in 1998, Sheehan saw a six-year-old patient who had fallen out of a window.
“I took care of him in the clinic, but it never occurred to me that this was something you could prevent,” Sheehan said.
Fifteen years later, now a faculty member at Northwestern, Sheehan was in a group of Chicago healthcare providers who discovered that fall was not an isolated incident.
“Looking at the public health data, we found that three kids a week fall from windows during the summer months,” Sheehan said. “It was one of the leading causes of injury to kids, and it was going under the radar.”
The group, which included Cook County Hospital and the Illinois Department of Public Health, launched a public-service announcement campaign called “Stop the Falls,” which warned parents about the dangers of these falls and encouraged them to open windows no more than four inches.
“Over the last 15 years it’s been able to decrease window falls by half,” Sheehan said. “It’s a pretty remarkable intervention, and an example of how when you see a patient, you also see a flaw in the system, and you can use your clinical experience to work towards a solution.”
In addition, panelists touched on how medical and law schools could help encourage students to develop these skills.
“For example, some law students want to be a public defender, but it’s not the most holistic approach to your client’s problems,” said Kendrick Washington, adjunct instructor at the Pritzker School of Law. “People are starting to understand intersectionality much better, so teaching students how to create opportunity for themselves — how to create not-for-profit organizations or create their dream job — is something I see as a gap in the curriculum, whether it’s the business school, the medical school or the law school.”
Another panel focused on the health and societal impacts of Chicago policing, including the long-terms effects of torture or incarceration on an individual. Linda Teplin, PhD, vice chair for Research and the Owen L. Coon Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and a professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, participated in the panel.
An oratorical contest, open to all students on the Chicago campus, asked contestants to write and deliver a short speech reflecting King’s perseverance.
“The message for all of us here isn’t to give up: it’s you’re up,” said Gene Kim, a student at Pritzker School of Law who received the first-place prize for his speech. “The problems we’ve seen in the streets, in our schools, in our clinics and our courts, and at every level of government — you’re up. This is our moment, this is our time. This is how we honor the legacy of Dr. King and this is how we help make a better tomorrow for those coming after us.”
The week concluded with a keynote address by Maggie Anderson, author of the book Our Black Year. Anderson and her family spent one full year using exclusively black businesses, professionals and products, a case-study in how increasing support for black business could have an impact on the black community and American economy as a whole.