West Dayton Diabetes Day wins National Community Relations Award

West Dayton Diabetes Day, the popular health promotion program sponsored annually by the Dr. Charles R. Drew Health Center and a host of community partners, has been selected for national recognition by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The AAMC chose West Dayton Diabetes Day for its Award of Distinction in Medical Education Public Affairs, citing it as "a marvelous community-based approach to a serious health issue."

Community partners who share the award include: the Dr. Charles R. Drew Health Center and Good Samaritan Hospital; the Center for Healthy Communities; the Alliance for Research in Community Health (ARCH); the Office of Public Relations at Wright State University School of Medicine; and the Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial. The award also recognizes the event's honorary co-chairs, Marsha Bonhart at WDTN TV 2 News and Michael Ecton at WDAO AM 12.10.

West Dayton Diabetes Day is held annually in November to provide health screenings and healthy lifestyle information to people who have or who are at risk for diabetes. Free to the public, the event includes a Diabetes Soul Food luncheon featuring traditional soul food dishes that are heart-healthy and meet the dietary needs of people with diabetes. The event draws more than 150 people annually. The AAMC award highlights West Dayton Diabetes Day's collaborative effort and its innovative strategy of promoting both the health and the cultural heritage of the predominantly African-American neighborhood served by the Drew Health Center.

When the Drew Health Center underwent renovation in 1998, the site for West Dayton Diabetes Day was moved to the Dunbar House State Memorial Museum, a national historical landmark located in the same West Dayton neighborhood. An educational center and museum devoted to the internationally acclaimed poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), the Dunbar House was the first public monument in America dedicated to an African-American man. It is regarded as a cornerstone of West Dayton's cultural heritage.

The move to Dunbar House celebrated both the health and the heritage of a neighborhood. Participants had an opportunity to tour the historic landmark, and while they waited for health screenings, they learned about the life and work of Dayton's most famous author. The mood was more festive than clinical. "Paul Laurence Dunbar was a proclaimer of dignity. He symbolizes hope. I think Paul would be proud to know that his home was used for community events like West Dayton Diabetes Day," says LaVerne Sci, historic site manager for the Dunbar House. Returning to the Drew Health Center this year, West Dayton Diabetes Day celebrated the legacy of the clinic's namesake. Dr. Charles R. Drew (1904-1950) was the African-American surgeon who revolutionized blood transfusion methods so that pooled blood plasma could be given to wounded soldiers on the battlefield ­ a medical breakthrough that saved countless lives in World War II.

Drew was named director of the first American Red Cross Blood Bank in 1941. He established an effective organization for collecting and preserving blood plasma for the U.S. Army and Navy, which became the model for today's volunteer blood donation system. He also advocated for the desegregation of America's blood supply. Drew resigned his directorship to protest the military's decision to maintain racially segregated blood banks. "We are proud of Dr. Drew's legacy. This year's West Dayton Diabetes Day was an opportunity to combine health and heritage so that more people can know who Dr. Drew was and how he worked to make life better for all of us," says Gina McFarlane-El. She is director of urban health services at Good Samaritan Hospital, which operates the Drew Health Center together with the Combined Health District.

"It is significant that the Association of American Medical Colleges has recognized West Dayton Diabetes Day for its innovative community-based approach to health promotion," says Dr. Howard Part, dean of Wright State University School of Medicine. "This award is one more example of the national reputation our community is gaining for its collaborative health-care partnerships."

Last edited on 04/01/2015.