An event not to be missed

Admittedly, we’re biased, but we believe the DMU and central Iowa communities have great opportunities to hear a wonderful speaker as part of next week’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations: William Anderson, D.O., FACOS, is a 1956 graduate of Des Moines University and a pioneer in both osteopathic medicine and the nation’s civil rights movement.

On Monday, January 16, Dr. Anderson will be the keynote speaker for the 23rd annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. State of Iowa Celebration, sponsored by the Iowa Department of Human Rights’ Office on the Status of African Americans. The free event, which will begin at 10:45 a.m. in the Iowa Historical Building, 600 East Grand Avenue in Des Moines, also will feature Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, past president of Des Moines University; the Special MLK Choir; and the awarding of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award.

Then on Tuesday, January 17, Dr. Anderson will speak at DMU’s MLK Jr. Day Celebration, noon to 1 p.m. in the Student Education Center Auditorium on campus.

We’re honored to have this distinguished alumnus in our midst. As founder and first president of the Albany Movement, which spearheaded the civil rights movement in Southwest Georgia, Dr. Anderson and his late wife, Norma, marched with Dr. King and others to gain the rights denied to African Americans in the early 1960s. Working in medicine when both black people and osteopathic physicians faced discrimination, Dr. Anderson rose to the highest pinnacle in his field. He was the first black president of the American Osteopathic Association and the first African American to be certified by the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons. Among his many honors is the AOA Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. Anderson has also served his medical alma mater. He was a member of the DMU Board of Trustees for more than 20 years and received the University’s Pioneer Award in Osteopathic Medicine and Public Service in 2009. He currently is senior advisor to the dean of the Michigan State College of Osteopathic Medicine and vice president of academic affairs, osteopathic medical education. within the Detroit Medical Center.

Some historical perspective gives context to Dr. Anderson’s many achievements. In his first medical practice in Albany, Georgia – located upstairs from a pool hall and liquor store – he served as many as 100 patients a day and made house calls at night, including to homes without electricity. On occasion he delivered babies by driving his car up to a house’s window with its headlights on to allow him to see. When he and his mentor, DMU graduate William Reese Jr., D.O., became the first African American physicians to attend the George Osteopathic Medical Association’s annual convention in 1959, the hotel refused to provide them rooms, instead arranging for them to stay at the home of the chief bellman (also black).

With all that he’s overcome and accomplished, though, Dr. Anderson is one of those delightful people who doesn’t take himself too seriously. His talks next week are guaranteed to provoke both serious discussion and laughter. Don’t miss the chance to meet this true pioneer!

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