Back to Blog

Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with Service Year Round

Published on Jan. 19, 2022

“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked an audience in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957. 

As we honor Dr. King’s legacy this week, we take a moment to reflect on what we – as individuals, as healthcare professionals and as an organization – do in service to one another and to our community. While our primary mission is to provide the highest quality healthcare for our patients, members of the Valley Children’s community go above and beyond their job descriptions in service to our community. 

The Valley Children’s Pediatric Residency Diversity Council (RDC) has taken this approach to heart with their patient and community advocacy projects. They have established The Central Valley Pipeline Doctors Academy (CVPDA) for students at Cutler-Orosi High School in Tulare County. The CVPDA was originally an idea of Dr. Omar Guzman of Kaweah Delta, a native of Tulare, to increase the number of physicians in the region. Every year a cohort of high school students is selected to be a part of the program and receives a tailored curriculum that focuses on becoming physicians.

The RDC has also hosted COVID vaccine clinics at Cutler-Orosi to raise community awareness about vaccine safety and increase access. In service to the community more broadly, pediatric hospitalists Dr. Reetu Malhotra and Dr. Saul Jacob traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border last year to provide medical care to migrants housed in temporary settlements awaiting immigration processing. These individuals all take time out of their demanding schedules to connect with members of our community to effect positive changes in their lives.     

As an organization, Valley Children’s has also worked diligently to better the community we serve. In recent years, Valley Children’s Guilds Center for Community Health has launched a variety of initiatives aimed to improve our communities, including:

  • Continuing the Kids Eat Smart program, where during the summer months, children can enjoy a free piece of fruit while they shop with their families inside several Fresno groceries stores. The program has distributed nearly 10,000 pieces of fruit since 2020.
  • Working to reduce infant deaths from unsafe sleep and ensuring every child at Valley Children’s under the age of 1 goes home with a safe sleep swaddle and education on creating a safe sleep environment.
  • Making community activities, such as going to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, more accessible for children with autism, through George’s Pass.

While Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is an opportunity for a day of service, it doesn’t have to stop there. For those of you who volunteered at a food bank or a shelter, or participated in a neighborhood cleanup, your service to our community is much appreciated! For anyone who may have missed this opportunity, it’s not too late! The Central California Food Bank has Saturday volunteer spaces open starting in March and Hands on Central California is seeking a variety of volunteers for both one-time and ongoing positions. Poverello House has openings available to serve meals or hand out clothing. Habitat for Humanity has a range of volunteer opportunities ranging from retail and office jobs to construction – with no experience needed! Many more opportunities are listed at California Volunteers

As Dr. King also said, “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”


About the Author

Dr. Nika Howell joined Valley Children’s in October 2014 as a pediatric hospitalist. She has a special interest in advancing the care of medically underserved children, as well as teaching and medical education. Dr. Howell is co-chair of Valley Children’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.