Healthcare System’s Goal: Fulfill MLK’s Dream of Health Equity
Jan 15, 2021
Gary Zavoral
Martin Luther King with Quote

This opinion piece was written by Dr. Stephen Lockhart, the outgoing chief medical officer of Sutter Health. Dr. Lockhart has been instrumental in advancing health equity, not just in Northern California, but throughout the nation. 

By Stephen Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Medical Officer, Sutter Health

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King said these words at a convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights 54 years ago in Chicago. I use this quote often as — more than a half century later — we still make the case for health equity for all.

Until his assassination in 1968, Dr. King recognized and fought for common humanity and the need for racial and social justice.

Because there is so much more to do to achieve his dream, Sutter leaders show up and speak up every year at MLK Day to demonstrate that this ongoing battle continues.

Granted, this year’s MLK Day on Jan. 18 is different. There will be no opportunity to march in-person together. But most important, Sutter’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and health equity over the last several years has become a daily — not an annual — quest.

In Dr. King’s honor, we won’t rest until people can have the best healthcare available, regardless of their circumstances. He believed that all people have the right to education, jobs, housing and healthcare.

His ideals and values match those of Sutter Health’s.

Stephen Lockhart MD

Dr. Stephen Lockhart

Right now, based on our research, your zip code can still have a major impact on your life expectancy. It’s our goal to change that — and to follow in Dr. King’s footsteps to be a national leader and role model for every health system.

Through the many who have been inspired by Dr. King’s words and actions, progress has been made. It’s my responsibility — and yours — to honor his life and legacy by completing the job and moving closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “beloved community.”

While I have provided the leadership in establishing the recently launched Institute for Advancing Health Equity, that baton has been passed to Leon Clark, vice president and chief research and health equity officer, as I step into retirement this month after 35 years with Sutter. Leon joined Sutter from Mayo Clinic last year. I will remain closely tied to Leon and the institute as an adviser so I can continue to be a driving force in seeing Dr. King’s dream of healthcare equity and justice come true.

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