Employees, students honored for diversity best practices in return celebration

April 25, 2022
Dental student Sindasha Makins, right, receives the 2022 Student Leadership in Diversity Award from Marsha Higgins. Photos by Scott Garrand

Three honorees, as well as previous employee and student winners of the Earl B. Higgins Achievement in Diversity Awards, gathered on April 6 for an on-campus reception for the first time in more than two years because of the coronavirus pandemic. The in-person and virtual event celebrated service and achievements for providing the best examples of diversity, equity and inclusion around MUSC and the Tri-county area.

The program praised 2022 leadership winners: Health disparities and cancer prevention researcher Marvella E. Ford, Ph.D., university; licensed social worker Eunice P. Moore, MUSC Heath; and student Sindasha K. Makins. Previous winners from 2021 included Lindsey Hamil, Ph.D., university; Iggy Pla, MUSC Health; Keeana J. Ross, Pharm.D., student; and 2020 honorees who were also recognized when the annual awards resumed after a temporary suspension due to the pandemic.

The April 6 event was hosted by Willette Burnham-Williams, Ph.D., interim chief equity officer at MUSC, and presented by the MUSC Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“The past three years has been so long and unprecedented with the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m thrilled to share in hosting the return of this in-person and virtual event as we celebrate the achievements of individuals who have demonstrated in multiple ways a commitment to MUSC’s core values – compassion, collaboration, respect, innovation and integrity. We’re reminded it takes a community and a collective body of people, as well as the individual, to accomplish the work honored today,” said Williams.

The day also honored the legacy of the award’s namesake, Earl B. Higgins, Ed.D., former director of Affirmative Action and Minority Affairs at MUSC. Higgins was a Charleston area native and attended Claflin University. He also attended South Carolina State University and Auburn University, where he received his doctorate before joining MUSC in 1988.

DaNine Fleming,Ed.D., read a brief biography of Higgins to the audience. “Dr. Higgins was a warrior for recruitment, retention and established enrichment programs that increased representation of minority programs,” said Fleming, who, she added, was also instrumental in recruiting minority faculty, ensuring equal opportunity for all employees and was a mediator for race relations and gender issues on campus. “He seized opportunities to promote a harmonious learning and work environment for all and built bridges for the university and community it serves,” she said.

2022 Higgins University Leadership Marvella Ford, Ph.D. 
Dr. Marvella Ford, right, receives the 2022 Earl B. Higgins Leadership in Diversity University Award from Marsha Higgins, sister of the award's namesake.

Marvella E. Ford, Ph.D. – 2022 University Leadership Award recipient

Ford is a professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and associate director of Population Sciences and Cancer Disparities at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center. Ford also is the SmartState endowed chair in prostate cancer disparities at South Carolina State University (SCSI) and holds a joint appointment as professor in the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences at SCSU. For many years, she’s been at the forefront of improving the health of minority groups across the Palmetto State. Ford, along with Judith D. Salley, Ph.D., chair of biological and physical sciences at SCSU, co-leads a $12.5 million National Institutes of Health-National Cancer Institute Center grant to reduce health disparities. Ford is also a principal investigator on multiple NIH-NCI-funded minority research programs to increase diverse participants in cancer research. She was nominated by Raymond N. DuBois, M.D., Ph.D. Hollings Cancer Center director.

“Thank you so much – I’m honored and humbled,” said Ford. “To the Higgins family, we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. Everything we do is in honor of Dr. Higgins’ legacy. It’s an honor to be here at MUSC and be part of this family. Thank you everyone.”

Eunice (Kay) Price Moore - 2022 MUSC Health Leadership Award recipient

2022 Higgins Award Health Leadership Kay Price Moore 
Kay Price Moore is the MUSC Health Diversity in Leadership Award winner.

Moore is a transplant social worker in the Department of Surgery-Transplant Surgery. She specifically works with the kidney transplant population during hospitalization and the acute recovery period post-transplant. She tailors her approach in patient care individually to recognize each patient’s specific needs and ensure that each is addressed as optimally as possible. Moore’s a strong advocate for every patient. Additionally, she helps with education initiatives for patients and staff members, wrote Nicole Whatley, MUHA hospital patient accounting, in her nomination letter.

“I want to thank my team for this honor. As social workers, we don’t often get the recognition and attention for the work that we do. I appreciate this award and what you’ve done to recognize me. Thank you,” said Moore.

Sindasha Makins – 2022 Student Leadership Award recipient

Makins is a third-year dental student in the James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine. Nominated by Pearl Givens, student service program coordinator in the college, Makins, Givens said, embraces all opportunities to ensure that the community and campus at MUSC enhance and enrich diversity, enrichment and inclusion. She’s demonstrated her passion for providing care to underserved communities through her institutional leadership and involvement. One of her proudest roles is serving as president of the MUSC chapter of the Student National Dental Association, which promotes, aids and supports the academic and social environment of minority students in the college. In addition, Makins is a S.C. AHEC scholar, MUSC interprofessional fellow, Safety Net participant and 2021 National Health Service Corps scholarship recipient. Upon graduation, she plans to work professionally in an underserved community in South Carolina.

“Thank you, Ms. Givens, for nominating me and recognizing what comes natural to me. To receive an award for something that I’m so passionate about and comes naturally to me is so amazing,” said Makins.

DEI Legacy award is presented to Willette Burnham-Williams, Ph.D. 
Provost Dr. Lisa Saladin, left, presents the inaugural DEI Legacy Award to Dr. Willette Burnham-Williams, MUSC interim chief equity officer.

In a surprise twist following the awards, provost Lisa Saladin, PT, Ph.D., approached the stage to recognize Burnham-Williams for her leadership and dedication in improving and advancing DEI efforts at MUSC and other areas of higher education in South Carolina throughout her career. Saladin presented her with the inaugural DEI Legacy Award.

“On behalf of Dr. Cole, the MUSC Board of Trustees and senior leadership, we recognize you for your dedicated service and commitment to DEI for over 45 years. You’ve been an integral part of President’s Council and all we do that makes the fabric of this institution value diversity, equity and inclusion,” Saladin said.

2022 Earl B. Higgins University Leadership Award nominees also included Elizabeth A. Brown, Ph.D., Jacketta Cobbs, Ph.D., Lauren Gellar, Ph.D., Shannon Jones, Anahita Modaresi, Anita Ramsetty, M.D., Catrina Simms Robinson, Ph.D., and Joe Vuthiganon, D.M.D.

2022 Earl B. Higgins Student Leadership Award nominees also included Echo Buffalo, Vivian Chioma, Xzavier Killings, Keturah Mingledolph, Gualberto Munoz, Chad Richardson and Savannah Robinson.

2022 Earl B. Higgins Award selection committee: Regan Allenspach, Carlton Hawkes Jay Henderson, Noni Langford, Paula Sutton and Antwana Wright, M.D.