School of Medicine student goes on civil rights pilgrimage

April 10, 2014

By Carrie Brown

Marcus Rushing with Dr. Brian Monahan

Third-year School of Medicine student Marcus Rushing recently took part in what he describes as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As a guest of the president of the United Health Foundation, Rushing attended the invitation-only 14th Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Mississippi and Alabama, sponsored by The Faith & Politics Institute. He was the only student invited who was not related to a member of Congress.

"I feel so honored to have been a part of this journey," Rushing says. "I learned so much about what drives people to take on personal challenges to help change the world."

The pilgrimage commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, a voter registration project in Mississippi that strived to expand black voting in the south. The journey took participants through the Mississippi Delta to Jackson and on to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, shining a light on little-known events during that Mississippi summer that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Participants visited landmarks and heard the stories of activists like Fannie Lou Hamer, who was instrumental in the organization of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi.

Rushing came away from the experience with a message of hope.

"I was very familiar with the violent past of the civil rights movement," Rushing says. "But it was so inspiring to hear the positive stories of the heroes who took on the establishment and made this a better country."

Marcus plans to go into internal medicine and hopes to specialize in hematology oncology. He says he was thrilled to have the opportunity to spend time on the pilgrimage with Brian Monahan, the attending physician of the United States Congress and the United States Supreme Court. Dr. Monahan is a hematology oncologist, and Rushing says he had the chance to talk to him about the discipline and his future as a physician.

Rushing says his conversations with Monahan reinforced what he wants to take with him into medical practice.

"The physician-patient relationship is so important," he says. "Developing those relationships and giving back is why I want to be a doctor."

Rushing says he feels fortunate that the KU School of Medicine gives students so many opportunities to give back - from M1 Community Service Day to the JayDoc Free Clinic and the BullDoc Clinic.

"Just like the civil rights advocates of the 1960s, I think future doctors can be agents of change too," Rushing says. "It's not what you do for yourself that matters, but it's what you can do for others."

Last modified: Apr 10, 2014