On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and we remember his fight for social justice and civil rights.
In his speeches and sermons, Dr. King often told the tale of the Good Samaritan. For him, the story had two basic morals: the value of individual altruism and the necessity of systemic change.
In this story, a Samaritan was walking on a dangerous, rocky road from Jerusalem to Jericho when he came across a man who had been robbed and beaten. Other travelers had ignored the injured man, leaving him dying on the side of the road. “When he saw the wounded man,” Dr. King wrote, the Samaritan “was moved with compassion. He went to the man and administered first aid. He placed him on his beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” The Samaritan didn’t care about the stranger’s race, his socioeconomic status, or his ability to repay the favor. He instead simply acted with compassion and helped how he could.
PAGNY physicians and professionals follow this altruistic example, and we believe, in Dr. King’s words, that “like the good Samaritan, we must always stand ready to descend to the depth of human need. The person who fails to look with compassion upon the thousands of individuals left wounded by life's many roadsides is not only unethical, but ungodly.”
We also know that an individual act can only go so far, and social responsibility requires deeper fixes. For Dr. King, “it is not enough to aid the wounded man on the Jerico Road. It is also necessary to work to change the conditions of the Jerico Road which made robbery possible.” Dr. King sought to “tear down unjust conditions and build anew instead of patching things up.”
This work remains incomplete across society, with disparate outcomes in healthcare especially. According to a report by New York City Health + Hospitals, a child born in East Harlem today has a life expectancy 9 years shorter than a child born just 2 miles south on the Upper East side. Diabetes, glaucoma, and cardiovascular disease are among myriad challenges that affect marginalized and poor communities at especially high rates.
At PAGNY, our diverse workforce is committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers receive the high quality, patient-centered care they need and the respect they deserve, regardless of their race, their sexuality, their immigration status, or their ability to pay. We partner with NYC H+H, “the largest public health care system in the U.S.,” offering “comprehensive, accessible and affordable health care to all, without exception.” We take seriously the task left to us by Dr. King to disrupt and remedy persistent racial and economic injustices. We are sensitive to historic and ongoing inequities in health care, and we believe in a workforce that reflects the communities we serve.
We remember Dr. King today, and we respect his legacy by embodying the altruistic tale of the good Samaritan he so often reminded us of.