By KIM MEYER-WEBB | Photography by DERO SANFORD
The Derek Lewis Foundation empowers individuals to live with purpose and wellness. Creating unrealized, but truly accessible opportunities in underserved communities – the foundation offers statewide programs, resources and sponsorships for whom Derek Lewis II considers “less fortunate and disenfranchised.” Through strategic partnerships and a shared vision, Derek continues his father’s legacy of cultivating education, equity and community for all Arkansans.
Established by Dr. Derek Lewis, the mission fulfillment work is two-fold. “There is nothing more fulfilling than making a difference in other people’s lives. At the Derek Lewis Foundation, we have been helping make the world a better place, and we invite you to join us on this amazing journey.” Dr. Lewis remembers a childhood in rural Arkansas, that inspired his heart for service. “I grew up extremely poor and needed help; that has humbled me. It’s important to pay it forward and help when and where you can.” Dr. Lewis studied at the University of Central Arkansas and remains an ardent ambassador. “UCA allowed me to pursue education and then medical school at UAMS with a solid curriculum and advice from a true mentor on how to succeed. That’s one reason I support the university with
For three decades, the Derek Lewis Foundation has effectively provided critical awareness to improve community health as well as the tools for Arkansas youth to excel academically. Through a creative collaboration with the Clinton Foundation, students throughout the Capital City receive wellness checkups as part of a back-to-school campaign. This includes an annual physical as well as hearing, eye and oral exams. “Making sure children are healthy and ready to learn is key,” Dr. Lewis elaborates. The Community Health & Wellness Expo, which is one of the largest in Arkansas, was interrupted by COVID-19, but will reconvene this summer. Derek notes that for several years, local churches and UA Little Rock hosted the expo; this reflects the organization’s pragmatic approach to accessibility. “The foundation programs started at a local church and is a statewide organization with some small work in Texas starting to bloom. We are all God’s children and deserve the grace of good health.” As a family medicine specialist, Dr. Lewis practices this creed – helping patients with care today coupled with research + innovation for continued wellness. A recent addition to the foundation’s portfolio of services is sponsorship of the Philander Smith University Social Justice Institute Fellows Program. Summer camps and cooking classes with the Timmons Arts Foundation bring nutrition and healthy eating choices into finite focus.
As chairman of the board of directors, Derek’s leadership includes reflection and reverence for the organization’s rich history. In 1993, the objective of this fledgling foundation was simple: compassionate service makes the world a better place for every human. Dr. Lewis elaborates, “By pouring into our youth, we are leading by example so that they, too, will be compelled to help those that follow behind them.” Derek adds, “We are a connector and influencer. We are here to touch lives regardless of race, gender or social class. This ability to bring people together for a great cause is a joy.”