Dennis Suskind, H. Carl McCall, Joyce Brown, Dr. Edgar O. Mandeville, William Mandeville

*With the recent passing of the Health Care Reform Law, all citizens will be entitled to receive affordable health care regardless of pre-existing conditions.  The new law brought a roar of jubilation for many people who were not covered by a medical plan.

Audrey Bernard

But none were more jubilant than the staff at the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH) where — under the excellent leadership of chief executive officer, Dr. Ruth C. Browne — they remain true to the beloved tennis star’s vision for improved health care and education for America’s urban residents.

The tennis champion, activist and humanitarian established AAIUH in 1992, just two months before his untimely passing in 1993 after contracting the AIDS virus from a blood transfusion.

Ashe knew that many preventable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, are the result of inadequate health care delivery, late detection, and insufficient health education.

Now Ashe can finally rest in peace knowing that the goal of his organization, in response to the disproportionate amount of illness and death in urban communities from preventable diseases, resonates throughout the nation.

In tribute to his memory and to celebrate his legacy, the board of directors of AAIUH established an annual gala that would be a party for a purpose.

Dr. Edgar O. Mandeville, Harriet Mandeville, Dr. Michael Stocker, Dr. Ruth C. Browne, Lenny Wilkens

Now some sixteen years later, AAIUH held its annual Sportsball on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at Pier Sixty in Chelsea Piers that was attended by some 500 notables representing sports, music, entertainment, and medicine.

The event kicked off with a VIP & press reception hosted by Kym Hampton (former NY Liberty All-Star basketball player and currently NY Liberty fan development leader) followed by a general reception, silent auction, awards, dinner and dessert & dancing.

Health Science Academy Students

Each year the AAIUH honors individuals and organizations that are making significant contributions to urban communities in the areas of health, education, medical research, community service, and philanthropy.  The awards were presented by Ruth C. Browne, Sc.D and Dr. Edgar Mandeville, AAIUH chairperson, board of directors.

The 2010 honorees included Seth Abraham (former president HBO Sports & Madison Square Garden); Greater New York Hospital Association; Dr. Michael Lucchesi (chairman, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, SUNY Downstate); George Martin (executive director, NFL Alumni Association); Selena Roberts (author & sports journalist); and Boyd Tinsley (musician, Dave Matthews Band).

Otis Livingston, honoree Seth Abraham, Michelle Miller

Otis Livingston (CBS 2, Sports Anchor) and Michelle Miller (Correspondent, CBS News) served as program hosts.  Bonnie Gatling performed the National Anthem and Rev. Paul Smith provided meditation.

The event was coordinated by the Sportsball team led by Wanda Mann.  Corporate sponsors of Sportsball included American Express, Astra Zeneca, Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, Macy’s and the USTA.

Rev. Paul Smith, Bonnie & Luther Gatling

At the end of the evening, guests indulged in a decadent dessert buffet and lined up to receive a fabulous swag bag containing a pair of comfortable and stylish Tom’s Shoes.

Proceeds from the stellar party for a purpose support AAIUH’s innovative community health education programs and research initiatives that encourage people to take a pro-active approach to their health.

The Health Science Academy which is training the next generation of health care providers is a result of such an initiative.  AAIUH is a leader and pioneer in developing culturally competent health services that address racial, ethnic and gender disparities in health.

(Photos by Mark Phillips)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.