DMU’s Glanton Event Celebrates 20 Years of Changing Health Care

The impact of Des Moines University’s Glanton Fund was evident at the annual Glanton Event Nov. 2. Speakers and DMU students shared their experiences with the fund, which has benefited more than 5,000 DMU students in its two decades — including by generating $3.2 million in scholarships from its $5.3 million-plus endowment.

The event celebrated the university’s strategic efforts to prepare culturally competent and compassionate health professionals equipped to serve people and communities of all backgrounds. Donors to the fund demonstrated their shared belief in the fund’s purpose by contributing $304,537 during the past year. Those donors included this year’s presenting sponsor of the event, Prairie Meadows, and leadership donors Mary Radia, D.O.’81, and Suku Radia.

“We come together tonight to demonstrate our belief that health care and public health leadership must be responsive and respectful to everyone,” said DMU President and CEO Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D. “That includes teaching students to see patients as individuals, to understand their own biases and to be equipped to respond to the needs of those they serve with respect, empathy and cultural humility.”

Fund Marks Milestone Anniversary

This year’s Glanton Event marked the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Glanton Fund. It was established in honor of the late Judge Luther Glanton Jr. and Willie Stevenson Glanton, both Central Iowa attorneys, public servants and civil rights leaders. Its initial purpose was to make a DMU education more accessible by generating scholarships for students with financial needs whose backgrounds align with DMU’s mission and values.

The fund’s purpose has since expanded to supporting programs that foster the cultural competency of all DMU students. Rich Salas, Ph.D., DMU’s chief diversity officer who joined the university in 2012, described some of those programs at the Glanton Event.

“I consistently remind students that the Hippocratic Oath, ‘do no harm,’ which they take as future health care physicians and health care providers, does not have an exception clause. We must treat every individual with dignity, with respect and with compassion,” he said. “The Glanton Fund was a crucial element that put the university on this path 20 years ago.

“With leadership support, we have created a Faculty and Staff Diversity Council to enhance our recruiting and hiring strategies. Our students have driven change, too, as participants in campus programs such as the Diversity Health Series, Implicit Bias Series, Seeking Justice Series, Safe Zone trainings and as members of the Multicultural Affairs Student Advisory Council,” he added. “Empowering these future leaders to understand and advocate for health equity will benefit their future patients and positively change health care.”

Real Impact, Real Change

Glanton Event attendees heard from two individuals who benefited directly from the Glanton Fund and used their education to serve others. Russell Dixon, M.S.P.A.S.’11, PA-C, a physician assistant at the Veterans Administration Central Iowa Health Care System and secretary of the DMU Alumni Board, received a Glanton Scholarship as a DMU student.

“I can share firsthand that it provided me with a wonderful education and training opportunities that furthered my career,” he told the audience. He noted the diversity of backgrounds, ages and perspectives of the veterans he cares for in his work.

“Amid this diversity, these individuals all came together for a shared cause: to serve our country. Diversity represents one of our greatest strengths as a society,” Dixon said. “Tonight, we are here to celebrate and advocate for diversity, also for a shared cause — to make health care better…by fostering a health care workforce that is prepared to serve all people and that better reflects our diverse society.”

DMU graduate Kelsey Mims, D.P.T.’12, spoke to Glanton Event attendees via video. Also a past Glanton Scholarship student, she is a physical therapist in Atlanta, a founding board member of the National Association of Black Physical Therapists and a recipient of DMU’s 2023 Rising Star Award, given to graduates of the past 15 years or less who are accomplished in their careers and service.

“Every day, when I go to work, I feel like I’m living in my purpose,” she said. “Knowing that DMU has made an initiative to make sure diversity, equity and inclusion is part of all its programs and curriculums means a lot not only to me, but also to patients. Because if you’re not culturally aware of things, what these people are going through financially, emotionally, and just the stressors that affect people in daily life, you’re not able to properly treat patients.”

Honoring Glanton Fund Leadership Donors

Franklin thanked Prairie Meadows, presenting sponsor of this year’s Glanton Event and a longtime Glanton Fund supporter, and its president and CEO, Gary Palmer, for his leadership. Julie Stewart, Prairie Meadows’ vice president of business development, expressed the organization’s pride in investing in the fund.

“Funding projects such as Des Moines University allows us to continue to fulfill our mission of giving back,” she said.

Mary Radia, D.O.’81, DMU’s 2022 College of Osteopathic Medicine Alumna of the Year, and Suku Radia were honored for supporting the Glanton Fund since its inception and for their most recent leadership gift. Both are longtime volunteers in Central Iowa; Mary is secretary and member of the DMU Board of Trustees. Speaking at the Glanton Event, she praised Franklin’s leadership and impact and DMU’s “rich history of diversity and equality.” She noted that women were admitted to the first D.O. class in 1898, when the university was Still College, “at a time when medical schools were systematically excluding women as they thought they would be too distracting to the male medical students.”

A retired rheumatologist, she said DMU’s “tradition of equality” provided her the education to break a barrier for D.O.s.

“When I completed my internal medicine residency at UnityPoint, I applied to the University of Iowa for a fellowship in rheumatology. I was advised that it had been over 25 years since they had accepted any D.O. into any fellowship program in the internal medicine subspecialties,” she said. “The very next day, I received a card informing me that I had been accepted to this program. I went on to become the youngest board-certified rheumatologist in the country. It is my education and one university that prepared me for everything I have achieved since.”

The Radias’ daughter, Renee, spoke at the Glanton Event on behalf of her father, who could not attend. He noted that in celebrating diversity and increasing equality, “there is still much work to be done.”

“Friends, I have been involved in the Glanton Fund from day one. I knew and respected Judge Glanton and Willie Glanton,” Renee said, quoting her father. “I will simply conclude by saying that Mary and I support the Glanton Fund because there’s still much work to be done.”

The 2024 Glanton Event will occur Wednesday, Nov. 6. For more information about the fund, visit or contact or 515-271-1078.

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