Edward Barksdale, MD, professor and chief of Pediatric Surgery, Rainbow Babies & Children's University Hospitals, presented the 2024 School of Medicine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. keynote lecture on Jan. 17 titled, "From Health Equity to Health Justice: A Passionate Call for Transformative Change."
Drawing on his personal and professional experiences as an academic clinician and researcher, Dr. Barksdale highlighted the importance of addressing health disparities and ensuring justice in healthcare. He stressed the importance of justice and equity in healthcare and emphasized the need to address root causes instead of just treating symptoms.
He urged listeners to consider justice as a dynamic process that requires continuous efforts to adjust course and make strides toward improvements. This concept transitioned into his advocacy for a shift from health equity to health justice—a system focused on equal access and the quality and value of healthcare services.
Barksdale shared a passion for being at the forefront of various community outreach programs, particularly focusing on areas grappling with violence and crime. A significant achievement that underscored this commitment was his role in a program that significantly reduced Cleveland's homicide rate.
However, he didn't shy away from critiquing the program's unsustainability, highlighting a key issue – the lack of focus on root causes that perpetuate the problem of violence and crime. He underscored that treating symptoms is an inadequate approach to complex, deep-seated social issues.
Barksdale's concluding challenge was a call to action, urging people to consider what role they will play in this concert for justice. His critical question for all: "What melody are you going to play?" offers a forceful and resonant finale to a profound discussion on health justice, urging each listener to consider their actions and contributions to a more equitable and just world.