The New York Academy of Medicine honored Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation; Olajide Williams, MD, MS, founder of Hip Hop Public Health; and Doug E. Fresh, founding artist of Hip Hop Public Health at its Access: Health fundraiser on June 7, 2022, held at NYAM’s historic building on Museum Mile. The awards recognized each honoree’s contributions to advancing health equity.
The event also celebrated NYAM’s 175th anniversary of improving public health in New York City and beyond since 1847. In recognition of this milestone, the organization received a proclamation from New York City Mayor Eric Adams recognizing June 7, 2022, as a Day of Equity.
“As we all know, public health is a team sport and NYAM’s mission to advance us towards a more equitable, just, and healthy society takes more than a village,” said NYAM President Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS. “But, collectively, we have what it takes: determination, know-how, creative thinking, and inspiration, driven most importantly, by compassion.”
NYAM honored Darren Walker as the 2022 Health Equity Champion for his leadership on advancing social justice and addressing the drivers of inequality as president of the Ford Foundation. Walker was introduced by Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“I speak to you with enormous hope for the future for a more equitable health system,” Walker said. “Hope is the oxygen of democracy, and one of the things that democracy needs are institutions that give us hope.”
NYAM honored Dr. Olajide Williams and Doug E. Fresh with the Rising Leaders Award for their transformative use of hip hop music to inspire health behavior change among youth through Hip Hop Public Health. The award was introduced by Henri Pierre-Jacques, Managing Partner of Harlem Capital and 2019 NYAM honoree.
“It is true that we have come a long way. It is true that we still have a long way to go,” Dr. Williams said. “But we CAN reach a place where equity for all is not only a symbolic gesture but a meaningful undertaking.”
“We have been using entertainment, hip hop, and health and merging them together to reach as many people as possible,” Fresh said. “I want to thank you all for believing in the relationship between hip hop and health.”