August 28, 2015

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Evers-Williams lends name to Institute

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 14, 2014

Myrlie Evers-Williams, a Vicksburg native and the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, helped dedicate the UMMC Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities during a ceremony Friday at the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center.

The launch of the institute represents a new partnership between the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Jackson State University College of Liberal Arts, and signifies the renaming of the Mississippi Institute for the Improvement of Geographical Minority Health Disparities, created to close the gap between those who receive proper medical care and those who don’t, hospital spokesman Gary Pettus said in an e-mail.

The revamped organization will focus on three main areas of concern in Mississippi: child health disparities, minority men’s health and research training – issues that resonate with Evers-Williams, who spoke to a gathering of about 130 people.

“I am so honored to lend my name to this wonderful, motivational group of programs we have here that will move Mississippi from the bottom of the list to the top,” Evers-Williams said.

“If Mississippi is going to be a strong state in every way, we have to be healthy, too.”

The three areas of focus were also chosen based on their capacity to dovetail with existing programs at UMMC and JSU, said Dr. Bettina Beech, executive director of the institute and UMMC associate vice chancellor for population health.

“For instance, UMMC has the only children’s hospital in the state and deals with vulnerable children,” said Beech, referring to the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children.

Evers-Williams has a “passion” for children’s health and men’s health, said Beech, who introduced Evers-Williams as “one of the foremost civil rights figures of our time.”

“The area of minority men’s health has been overlooked in this country, for the most part,” Beech said. “Our partnership with JSU will enable groups of faculty and students to make a real impact in these areas of research.”

The institute will also collaborate with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, where Beech formerly served as co-director.

Housed in the Medical Mall, the institute also plans to team up with Alcorn State University – the alma mater of Medgar and Myrlie Evers – and the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute in Jackson, created to continue the legacy of Medgar Evers, who was assassinated June 12, 1963, in Jackson. The dedication was held the day after the 51st anniversary of his death.

“When I came back to Mississippi a year ago, I had no intention to stay,” Evers-Williams said. “I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to embrace the state. Anything is possible.”

Naming the institute after Evers-Williams is a “historic milestone” in the growing relationship between the university and the Evers family, Beech said.