News and Commentary The Macy Awards for Excellence in Social Mission: Your Opportunity to Celebrate Your Colleagues

My new patient sat in the clinic waiting room with a bandana covering his face, but when he turned, the cloth slipped and revealed the purple splotches. It was the early years of AIDS and I knew that I had no medicines to prescribe for his Kaposi’s sarcoma and little that would change the course of his fatal illness. But he taught me that there was much more than that to caring—he needed help with getting food and paying his rent, he wanted to find other patients with whom he could talk about HIV, and he wanted someone to fight for better policies to address the spreading epidemic. His requests taught me about the social mission that is such a critical part of being a health professional truly committed to healing.

Thirty years later, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation has stepped up to sponsor a special awards program dedicated to celebrating leaders who have advanced the social mission of our profession. Joining forces with the Beyond Flexner Alliance, the Macy Foundation’s Awards for Excellence in Social Mission in Health Professions Education provide each of us the opportunity to recognize the work of our colleagues who are at the forefront of advancing social mission in health professions education. Social mission is defined as activities that teach, model, or improve community engagement, diversity, health equity, disparities reduction, value based care, or engagement with the social determinants of health. The winners are recognized at an inspiring event at the Beyond Flexner Alliance Conference which includes a video of each winner’s accomplishments.

First given in 2016, the awards will again be bestowed in 2018. Recognition is made in four categories—Institution, Program, Individual, and Lifetime Achievement. Everyone is invited to submit nominations using the electronic form available on the Beyond Flexner Alliance Conference website. You will be asked to briefly summarize the accomplishments of the nominee(s), explain how they promote social mission in health professions education, and delineate their community and/or societal impact. The nominations which are due by December 18, 2017 are reviewed and ranked by the Beyond Flexner Awards Committee. Awards will be presented at the Beyond Flexner 2018 Conference in Atlanta, Georgia (April 9-11, 2018).

To get an idea of who you should nominate, you can review the inaugural winners here.

  • Institutional Award: Morehouse School of Medicine — for their vision of health equity, their commitment to community, and their success in educating a cadre of diverse leaders in medicine and health sciences.
  • Program Award: Putting Families First (An Interprofessional Family Health Experience at the University of Florida)—for steadfast excellence over 19 years delivering dental, medical, nursing, pharmacy, public health and veterinary students an interdisciplinary, collaborative, community-based course that advances social mission.
  • Individual Award: Thomas Curtin, MD – for visionary leadership in building an alliance between Community Health Centers and A.T. Still University resulting in the development of two health center purposed dental schools and one health purposed medical school.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: H. Jack Geiger, MD – for a lifetime of work in health, poverty, and civil rights including marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and still fighting the moral injustices that confront us daily.

As passionately articulated by Fitzhugh Mullan in his recent JAMA article, “social mission is about making health not only better but fairer—more just, reliable, and universal.” Now is your opportunity to help honor those who have advanced this social mission and who serve to inspire all of us to make the changes needed in health professions education to ensure that the next generation has the skills needed to fulfill the responsibilities of our professional contract with society.

My patient died just a few short months after that first clinic visit. The last time I saw him he thanked each of the members of our clinic team for “fighting the fight” for him and all those with HIV/AIDS. For me, the Macy Awards for Excellence in Social Mission are the chance to honor this patient who taught me so many years ago to understand what healing truly means, and also to celebrate those who are leading the way in advancing social mission today. I urge you to join me in nominating outstanding colleagues for these powerfully inspiring Awards.

Claire Pomeroy is the chair of the Awards Committee for the Macy Awards, and is President of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. Leigh Anne Butler is secretary and treasurer of the Beyond Flexner Alliance.

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