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MLK Day forum to explore health disparities

Leaders in mental health, workforce, drug research and health practice discuss where our community stands after milestone year.

Janel Shoun-Smith | 615.966.7078  | 

MLK Day Event in 2019

Event coordinator, Norma Burgess, at Lipscomb University's Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in 2019.

Join Lipscomb University for a special virtual event honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m. 

The forum, themed "Keeping Our Community Healthy," will explore health disparities in today’s community and is free to view online, but viewers must pre-register here.

Speakers will include:

  • Jacky Akbari, founder and national board chair of the nonprofit National Organization for Workforce (NOW) Diversity, a private, public and non-profit collaborative created to provide insight and leadership training to advance workforce diversity initiatives. NOW Diversity presents trailblazing events such as the Healthcare Workforce Diversity Forum.  She is currently founder and managing principal of Worthington Advisory.
  • Chris Gonzalez, Ph.D., director of Lipscomb’s marriage and family therapy master’s program and the Lipscomb Family Therapy Center. The LFTC provides high quality mental health and relationship care services to the community at a reasonable cost; it is also a training facility for graduate students in Lipscomb's master of marriage and family therapy program. 
  • Venetra Jones, DDS, is a Mt. Juliet-based practicing dentist who graduated from the School of Dentistry at Nashville’s Meharry Medical College.
  • Klarissa Jackson, Ph.D., faculty member at Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina, researches drug metabolism and toxicology to better understand the mechanisms and risk factors of adverse drug reactions and improve drug safety. Jackson received the Ph.D. in pharmacology from Vanderbilt University and previously served on the Lipscomb University faculty as assistant professor.

In today’s atmosphere as the globe fights the Covid-19 pandemic and recent events have laid bare many equity gaps in the nation, health disparities is a particularly relevant topic for the MLK Day observance, said Norma Burgess, coordinator of Lipscomb’s MLK event and associate provost of diversity, inclusion and special initiatives.

“We’re excited to present the celebration this year in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.  The legacy continues as we think about the work that was done and continues to be done in our society,” she said. 

“It is especially relevant this year as the year 2020 brought many challenges to the community economically and physically.  The inability to gather with others, business closures and deaths from an unexpected pandemic allowed families to grow closer in some ways but also brought the inability to provide the closeness that families regularly share.”

The MLK forum will allow participants to examine “where we are, where we hope to be and to celebrate the fact that we made progress through some of the events that challenged us,” Burgess said.