:: to the teeth ::    thoughts on social justice, medicine, race, hope and beats

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Friday, April 09, 2004  

Yesterday I spoke at a panel discussion on universal health care and medical student activism at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine, in Stratford, NJ. I hadn't ever been to that campus of UMDNJ before. I was invited by Tana Shah, one of the Sea-Couver study tour participants who organized an amazing panel. Dr. Adam Tsai, a Fellow in Clinical Epi, spoke about the problems in our health care system and the single-payer solution, and as always, spoke very articulately and convincingly. Then a family doc from the area spoke about her uninsured patients, and next the Chair of Health Care for All/NJ, Ed Purtill, spoke about his experience in his group, and what they've lobbied for (Health Care Access Resolution, etc) recently.

Mr. Purtill mentioned some very interesting things about NJ and health care reform -- in the early 80's a referendum on health care reform passed in the state of NJ, and I dont' remember the specifics but it was overwhelmingly in support of a change to universal health care of some sort in the state. Nothing ended up happening, but there was support. And he was so cute, he mentioned that his group is made up of retired old people who all have Medicare and don't have to worry about their health, but who care about the health of the nation. He said "I'm 76, and I'm the youngest of our group." That's so true -- I was able to attend one of their board meetings and everyone's very very old, and very very cute. I hope I stay an activist for that long.

I spoke last, about what medical students can do, and that's always fun. It was fun talking about Sea-Couver, the UHC Task Force, etc. The students there are excited about reviving their AMSA chapter, but there's some administration resistance to creating another group on campus, especially when there's a SOMA group -- Student Osteopathic Medical Association, whose parent group is the AOA, American Osteopathic Association. It was interesting to see the tensions of possible competition between AMSA and SOMA, and to hear the stories about how older docs think AMSA is part of the AMA, and would not want students at an osteopathic school to join AMSA because the AMA has trampled on osteopathic docs in the past. They're also worried that SOMA membership would decrease. We had a great discussion, a few medical students and I, about how an AMSA chapter (which would have tons of great resources and opportunities from the national AMSA organization, and has the ability to fight for many issues that the AOA and AMA don't fight for because we're so independent) would really benefit the school, but how to have to the AMSA and SOMA chapters possibly working well together instead of competing. I mentioned that osteopathic students are equals with allopathic medical students in AMSA, and how osteopathic students are actually leading the way in the Humanistic Medicine Action Committee and other places in amsa's national leadership to better educate all premedical and medical students about humanistic medicine. But it was interesting to see this tension at a local level -- I guess this is an issue at many schools where AMSA may become a "dominant" looking group. It was interesting to get back into the local politics of perceptions of competing student organizations.

Lastly, I spoke with Dr. Adam Tsai afterwards. He and a bunch of other activists in Philly put a ballot initiative last year in the city's elections, which would call for the city to come up with a plan in one year's time, to come up with a proposal for universal health care in the city. It passed overwhelmingly, and now he and his friends, including Dave Grande (past amsa national president) and Dr. Uwe Reinhardt, a respected Princeton economist, are actually coming up with the plan! Now THAT's fun.

When I left the campus, I was really hungry and looked for a Taco Bell for an evening snack before my 2 hour drive. But the first thing I saw was a Checkers burger joint, on which was advertised in big letters -- "8 meals for under $3 -- burger, fries, and drink". DAMN. No wonder there's so much obesity in the US, and why it's such an epidemic in low-income areas. That's so much cheaper than making a healthy dinner. And after this thought, I had my $3 dinner at Taco Bell.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 4/09/2004 10:38:00 AM | |


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