The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and its president, David J. Ramsay, DM, DPhil, were honored by the southwest Baltimore community organization Paul’s Place at its annual gala at M&T Bank Stadium on March 28.
Before a crowd of 500 people, Paul’s Place Executive Director William J. McLennan presented the organization’s first “Commitment to Community Award” for UMB’s involvement in Paul’s Place and the West Baltimore community. Founded in 1982, Paul’s Place provides more than 20 services, programs, and resources including daily hot lunches, a clothing bank, eviction and utility assistance, a health clinic, showers and laundry, a community volunteer program, a children’s after-school program, and children’s weekend and summertime programs.
In 2009, the organization will serve more than 70,000 hot lunches to impoverished families and individuals. Several UMB schools including nursing, social work, and law are intimately involved in the Paul’s Place programs.
In his remarks after receiving the award, Ramsay described UMB’s recent involvement with its neighbors and revealed some of his aspirations for the future.
“We are a University that is deeply embedded in the community,” said Ramsay. He described how the UMB students, including medical, nursing, social work, dental, pharmacy, law, and graduate students, were always involved in the West Baltimore community and “it was embedded in their real being and the identity of the University.”
But, he said, the campus was separated from its neighbors by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“We had a chance to do something about this five or six years ago,” said Ramsay.
He described a meeting with then-Mayor Martin O’Malley to discuss using five acres of empty land along Baltimore Street west of Martin Luther King Boulevard for a BioPark and very quickly the land was sold to UMB for $1 and was quickly rezoned. Today, two buildings already are occupied and work is beginning on a third.
“To my mind,” he said, “this is very symbolic. We are actually part of [our neighboring] community and it has been an extraordinary event that has happened very, very fast.”
Then Ramsay speculated on his vision for the future.
“I would like you to think about the impact we could have in the future, that perhaps in 10 years you would come to our medical center and you would see a physician who came from our community in West Baltimore. This person had gone through a pipeline that we are creating today to have students from our local schools go to the Baltimore City Community College, which will have a floor in our BioPark, and then go to one of our professional schools. This can happen in the immediate future.
“Today, we want students from the Vivien T. Thomas School, the local medical arts high school in our community, to know that there is a real pathway for them to become part of our professional school community so that they can go from [a middle school to a] high school to a community college at UMB and then to one of our professional schools. There is a pathway there that is completely open,” said Ramsay.
Finally, Ramsay fantasized about other possibilities for the University, the BioPark, and its neighbors in the future.
“[Suppose] there’s a [little] building down there because we have expanded our BioPark and it looks like a manufacturing building. You know what might happen? One of our researchers might find a vaccine that can help protect people and we decide we are not going to outsource the manufacturing of that vaccine to a foreign country or other states. We could decide to do it right here because we have got strength in our community and excitement in our community and it’s going to come out of our community. We have the resources to make that happen. We have the technicians who can actually do the manufacturing. Just think about that in 10 years. I have great faith that can happen.
“We’re proud to be part of your community because your community is ours,” he concluded.