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Book chronicles 20 years of striving for diversity at Creighton

HS-MACA BookA newly published book marks the founding 20 years ago of a Creighton University department dedicated to building racial diversity on campus by offering educational opportunities in the health sciences to historically underrepresented and underserved populations.

Health Sciences-Multicultural and Community Affairs (HS-MACA) was founded in 2000 by M. Roy Wilson, MD, then dean of the Creighton University School of Medicine, the first African American to hold that position. Wilson persuaded Sade Kosoko-Lasaki, MD, a professor at Howard University and owner of a successful ophthalmology practice in Washington, D.C., to move to Omaha and lead the new department.

The story of the two decades that have passed since then is told in Diversity and Inclusion in a More Perfect University: HS-MACA 20-Year History of Success, available in hardcover at Amazon.com. It is a story of remarkable growth from a fledgling and aspirational organization to HS-MACA’s current status as a central focus of Creighton University’s effort to fulfill its Jesuit, Catholic goal of embracing all people without regard to race. More than 10,000 students of color have participated in HS-MACA’s outreach programs over the years and more than $15 million has been raised in grants and gifts to sustain its work.

“The proposition that ‘all are created equal’ reflects our nation’s most aspirational ideal,” writes the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, president of Creighton University, in a foreword to the book. “This ideal, often dormant, yet at other times pursued with zeal, is rooted in the natural duty to respect and raise up all of our brothers and sisters that they might fulfill their God-given potential.”

Under the leadership of Kosoko-Lasaki, a Nigerian-American, HS-MACA has become a familiar presence among Omaha’s minority populations — participating in ethnic festivals; organizing health-related events and programs; encouraging and supporting middle and high school students to consider careers in the health sciences, dental, medical, pharmacy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, public health and exercise science professions; directing post-baccalaureate programs designed to help minority students win admittance to medical, dental and health sciences schools; and extending a helping hand through programs conducted in other states and other nations.

Consisting of 15 chapters detailing the history and programs of HS-MACA, and filled with photographs of minority students who graduated from Creighton with HS-MACA’s assistance, the book is a lasting tribute to the vision of Wilson, the passion of Kosoko-Lasaki and the commitment of Creighton University to building a fully inclusive campus.

Although 20 years is a considerable passage of time, Kosoko-Lasaki stresses in her conclusion to Diversity and Inclusion in a More Perfect University that the mission will extend deep into the future.

The founding of HS-MACA “built on (Creighton’s) long history of advocating for persons whose race or ethnicity had, in the decades since the University’s founding in 1878, been used in the wider society to deny opportunities for advancement,” she wrote.

“HS-MACA stands in this tradition. The battles against segregated swimming pools and water fountains were won long ago. The modern challenge is less visible but of equal moment.”

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