Friday, March 8, 2019

Someone Who Has Overcome

Last week, we hosted our annual Black History Month celebration. This event honors the culture and accomplishments of African Americans in our society and celebrates the spirit and life work of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the presentation of the Spirit of King award. This year’s program, entitled “Songs of our Souls: We Shall Overcome,” featured Maryland Delegate C.T. Wilson, along with music from the Milford Mill Academy String Orchestra and Honors Chorale.

After the opening musical numbers, Delegate Wilson began this year’s program with his keynote. C.T. is from Charles County, and was featured in the Netflix docu-series “The Keepers.” He successfully advocated for legislation to extend the statute of limitations in child abuse cases in Maryland. When I first met him a few years ago, I was immediately impressed with his passion to help those without a voice. C.T.’s personal story is one of true hardship and perseverance. Thrown out of his home at the age of 4 by a drug-addicted mom who explained to him, "It's time for you to be a man." His life went from bad to worse. Orphaned at a young age, he was moved from foster family to foster family, and then when he was adopted at age nine, he was sexually abused by his adopter. Somehow, he got through the pain and suffering to build a better life for himself, his community, and his family. Today he is the state's primary advocate in the fight against child abuse and he has sponsored legislation to give child victims more time to file lawsuits against their abusers.

Prior to the start of the event, Delegate Wilson and I spoke briefly about GBMC’s vision of being the community-based true system of care that can deliver on our promise “to every patient, every time we will provide the care that we would want for our own loved ones.” I told him of our work to help victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. I also mentioned that since the closing of Franklin Square Hospital’s Pediatrics department about a year ago, GBMC’s SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examination) program has seen an increase in childhood assault and sexual abuse cases. As a result, we recently created a Child Protection Team, comprised of a pediatrician and social worker, who evaluate and treat all children where abuse is suspected. The team serves as a liaison between GBMC and governmental agencies which investigate child abuse and they educate medical providers and families on the recognition, reporting, and prevention of child abuse. Dr. Michelle Chudow is the medical director of the Child Protection Team and she works closely with the SAFE program team, led by its clinical program manager, Laura Clary, RN, FNE-A/P, SANE-A, to make sure that adolescent victims of sexual abuse or assault get the care they need. Delegate Wilson praised us for our efforts and encouraged us to continue to work to protect children from abuse.

Delegate Wilson’s presentation (click here to watch) was very moving and served as a motivator for everyone present. We all fought back tears because his story is so hard to hear. In the end, however, we all realized his resilience and strength. He told those gathered that he was not looking for pity, but rather a commitment to work for justice for all. I am very grateful that Delegate Wilson came to our event in the middle of the legislative session and shared his story with us. We will not forget it and we will redouble our efforts to help the abused and to educate our community towards the goal of eliminating abuse.

After Delegate Wilson’s speech, we presented the Spirit of King award which recognizes an individual who embodies the spirit and life's work of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and who is dedicated to serving their local community. The winner of this year’s Spirit of King award was Lisa Anglin, care coordinator at our GBMC Health Partners Primary Care – Perry Hall patient-centered medical home. Please join me in congratulating Lisa and all the nominees!

I am grateful to my colleagues on the Diversity and Inclusion Council for hosting this event and helping to bring us closer together. Thanks also to the Milford Mill Academy String Orchestra and Honors Chorale and our Black History Month committee for putting together the outstanding celebration.

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