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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

MUSC Awards Faculty, Student, and Health Leaders of Diversity and Inclusion

MUSC awardees

From left to right, Keeland Williams, Dr. Ebony Hilton, and Mike Denham

Charleston, SC — The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has recognized Ebony Hilton, M.D.; third-year medical student Keeland Williams; and Michael Denham, M.D., chief of perioperative services, with the 2018 Earl B. Higgins Leadership in Diversity Awards.

This year marked the 23rd annual presentation of the awards program, which serves as a tribute to the late Earl B. Higgins for his work as the director of Affirmative Action and Minority Affairs at MUSC. The program recognizes exemplary leaders who promote diversity and inclusion through campus and community initiatives.

Ebony Hilton – university award recipient

Ebony Hilton is an assistant professor of anesthesia and perioperative medicine and proud to be MUSC’s first black female anesthesiologist. Among the many worthwhile diversity initiatives she has been involved in, Hilton co-founded GLOSS, a mentoring program for middle school girls. GLOSS stands for Girls Loving OurSelves Successfully. She also founded SCRUBS, Students Creating Relationships and Unrooting BarrierS, an interdisciplinary mentoring program serving Meeting Street Elementary School.

“She has exemplified all the characteristics that are outlined in the Earl B. Higgins Achievement in Diversity Award,” said Scott Reeves, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Medicine. “Just a brief perusal of her CV will clearly document her dedication to increasing the pipelines of underrepresented minorities, particularly young women, into the field of medicine.”

Hilton was humbled by the honor she received. “I don’t feel deserving of this award,” she said. “Thinking back to Dr. Higgins, and what he had to endure – to be born in the middle of Jim Crow and what he had to overcome – I can’t say thank you enough. When I go to these schools and talk to these kids,” she said of the GLOSS and SCRUBS programs, “it is from a place of love and care. I was born the middle of three girls, from a split home. There were no doctors, lawyers or teachers in our neighborhood, so all we had to look up to were people on television. To all of the people who have supported me along my journey, thank you.”

Keeland Williams – student award recipient

Mitchell Hammonds, who coordinates student communications in the Office of Student Programs and Student Diversity, nominated Keeland Williams, a student in the College of Medicine, for an award. As a Student Government Association representative, Williams recognized a void in the representation of minority students and the potential the student body had to advance the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, Hammonds said. Williams researched other institutional structures and held MUSC’s first town hall for student diversity and inclusion, which provided robust dialogue among his peers.

“Through his leadership,” Hammonds explained, “the Student Government Association voted to instate a sixth executive officer position – vice president of diversity and inclusion. Mr. Williams was then elected by his peers to fill the position and has begun working with administrators and his peers to elevate minority student voices. This achievement will surely have a lasting impact on the university and has great potential for increasing the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in health care.”

Williams also dedicated time to the Alliance for Equity, the MUSC CARES Clinic, SM3 medical student mentor program and served as an MUSC student ambassador, promoting MUSC to prospective students.

“None of my accomplishments could’ve been possible without the support of MUSC students, faculty and staff. I believe the strength of a true leader is derived from their supporters. The MUSC family has been a fortifying pillar that has empowered me and enabled me to weather any storm. Their love and respect will sustain me as I continue challenging the system for the sake of my patients and my peers,” he said.

Michael Denham – health award recipient

Michael Denham served his country for two decades in the U.S. Navy. In 2015, he began his journey at MUSC as chief of perioperative services. He was nominated for the Earl B. Higgins health award by Anton Gunn, MUSC Health chief diversity officer and executive director of community health innovation.

“Mike has demonstrated incredible leadership in the area of diversity and inclusion at MUSC Health. In general, he is a great leader, but when it comes to building an inclusive environment for the care team members in the perioperative area of MUSC Health, he is the absolute best,” Gunn said.

Denham was quick to share the credit for the award, as he talked about his care team members seated in the audience. He called his leadership team to the stage to demonstrate that it was because of them that he deserved the award in the first place.

“I spent 20 years in the United States Navy. I received a lot of medals. I spent 10 years outside the Navy at other medical centers. I‘ve received many awards. But I can truly say tonight, that this is the proudest award I have ever received. But this night is not about me, it is about every individual on my leadership team.”


About MUSC
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and 700 residents in six colleges (Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy), and has nearly 14,000 employees, including approximately 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $2.4 billion, with an annual economic impact of more than $3.8 billion and annual research funding in excess of $250 million.

MUSC operates a 700-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized children’s hospital, the Ashley River Tower (cardiovascular, digestive disease, and surgical oncology), Hollings Cancer Center (a National Cancer Institute-designated center), Level I trauma center, Institute of Psychiatry, and the state’s only transplant center. In 2017, for the third consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the number one hospital in South Carolina. For more information on academic programs or clinical services, visit www.musc.edu. For more information on hospital patient services, visit www.muschealth.org.


Heather Woolwine