Monique Hedmann, M.P.H., M.D. Class of 2020, shared this poem at the annual OHSU Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Jan. 16, 2018. She included the following background about this poem for Student Speak:
I wrote the poem many years ago for a Dr. King celebration at Harlem Hospital Center in New York City where I was working at the time. In 1958, Dr. King was signing books in Harlem when he was stabbed by a deranged woman with a letter opener and was rushed to Harlem Hospital where the thoracic surgery team there saved his life. The event I wrote the poem for was honoring Dr. John Cordice, who led the surgical team that day. It was an honor to deliver it in front of Dr. Cordice, and it was an honor to deliver it here at OHSU.
His Life for Ours
Today I stand before you with the King’s immunity
Not a “credit to my race” – the product of opportunity
But there is much more room for improvement
HEALTH is the new Civil Rights Movement
Demonstrate to integrate, then medicate with Medicaid
Stroke and heart disease like a brutal barricade
We’re weighty with weariness and sedentariness
We DO want health, but they’re not really hearing us
Pollutants executing, comorbidities combine
As the asthma abounds and the cancer confines
Bodies assailable because crops are not unavailable
They double the price, but quality is debatable
Our money buys anything they can fry
The fast food floods the market like a drug supply
Got poor info to guide, then health rights get denied
So then we’re dying to live, or living to die.
How can we truly celebrate King’s life
If we don’t fight to protect our own?
We gotta venerate our vessels and teach the little ones
So that they will do the same when they’re grown
They claim we’re “colorblind” but for King to truly shine
We have to move our bodies as well as move our minds
Strive to eat healthily, learn and tell a friend
To break the shackles of sickness so our lives will extend
Demand our health rights from the powers that be
So that we can truly know what it means to be free
King’s life was the ultimate price that he paid
The foundation is laid – now is the time for ours to be saved.
– Monique Hedmann, M.P.H., M.D. Class of 2020