Honoring the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.


January 18, 2021

In 1986, Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a federal holiday in the United States, honoring the life of a man known for his courage and commitment to human rights. Observed on the third Monday of January, the holiday gives us a moment to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy and his unfinished agenda for change.

More than 50 years after his death, Dr. King’s words continue to inspire people throughout the world. Moreover, they remind us that there is still work to be done. Dr. King’s comments at the 1966 convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights were an inspirational call to action:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”

The work of CMB can provide a powerful platform to address injustice in health. Through medical education, we have the opportunity to train professionals who will not only enhance the quality of healthcare but also expand access to it. We can signal our support for health equity through the ways that we select students, structure the curriculum, support research, and mentor young professionals. Moreover, we can highlight the importance of addressing social determinants of health and disease by designing more comprehensive and equitable models of care. These themes resonate with CMB’s long-term support for medical education and health systems development.

CMB’s support for health equity became even more prominent with the launch of the Equity Initiative in 2016. Our five cohorts of young leaders from Southeast Asia and China are linking their ideas and expertise as they build a community for health equity throughout the region. They remind us that the reservoir of support for health equity can be broad and deep – as our Fellows come from government, academia, community-based and international NGOs, the arts, private business and social enterprise. I have begun to meet our fellows one on one. What a remarkable group. The breadth of their experiences, their diversity, and their commitment should inspire all of us!

We all stand on the shoulders of giants—extraordinary leaders, like Dr. King. A fitting tribute to Dr. King is to emulate his life of purpose and build on his legacy, by committing to health equity and social justice and supporting the next generation of leaders. On this day of remembrance, we hope to ensure that Dr. King’s quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” rings true.

Barbara J. Stoll
CMB President