Cleveland Clinic Hosts 2024 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration

Six-time Olympic champion Allyson Felix delivers keynote address to honor life and legacy of the late civil rights icon

Media Contact

Angela Smith 216.318.6632

Alana Wyche 216.346.0363

For the 32nd consecutive year, Cleveland Clinic hosted an annual tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The health system established its Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration in January 1992 to honor the life and work of the social justice activist, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

The prerecorded program, led by Tom Mihaljevic, M.D., CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic and the holder of the Morton L. Mandel CEO Chair, was broadcast on Friday, Jan. 12. The program featured a musical performance from contemporary jazz artist Michael Austine, and remarks from Oluwatosin “Tosin” Goje, M.D., medical director of the Center for Infant and Maternal Health at Cleveland Clinic.

The theme of this year’s community celebration was centered on a statement Dr. King made in 1966 at the Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Chicago, where he said: “Of all forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhuman.” 

Raising awareness about racial disparities in maternal and infant health – considered an American healthcare crisis – took center stage during the virtual program. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women in the U.S. are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications. Black babies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthdays.

Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix, the most decorated track and field athlete, gave the keynote address. Throughout her illustrious 20-year career, Felix won 31 medals at the Olympics and World Athletic Championships. Off the track, Felix has been even more impressive as an advocate for maternal rights, for all women, after facing her own traumatic childbirth experience.

During her keynote, Felix inspired attendees with her experiences of motherhood, finding her voice and confronting pregnancy discrimination.

Monday, January 15, marks what would have been Dr. King’s 95th birthday. Though his life was tragically cut short at the age of 39 in 1968, his legacy continues to inspire. 

Cleveland Clinic remains committed to health equity and eliminating racial disparities in birth outcomes. The hospital has invested in several initiatives to promote change so that every mother and child has the care they need to thrive:

  • Launching the Center for Infant and Maternal Health to help support women during their high-risk pregnancies and through an infant’s first year of life.
  • Participating in the Ohio Department of Medicaid’s Comprehensive Maternal Care program, which is community-based and aimed at improving the health and well-being of moms, infants and families covered by Medicaid.
  • Working with First Year Cleveland, a coalition of elected officials and health leaders with a mission to mobilize the community to reduce infant mortality in Cuyahoga County.
  • Offering CenteringPregnancy and CenteringParenting programs to provide group medical appointments that support women during their pregnancy and into parenting. 
  • Becoming one of just four hospitals in the U.S. to launch TeamBirth, which is designed to improve outcomes for pregnant patients by focusing on communication and teamwork.
  • Being one of a few health systems in the country with a Special Delivery Unit, which is designed to care for both babies and mothers requiring intensive care during and after delivery.

To watch the program, click here.