healthcare access

This week I wrote two posts for LAist, check ‘em out:

Schoolhouse Rock and the Health Care Reform Bill, where I discussed some of the background on the bill’s tortuous history and the senate shenanigans (filibustering, cloture, politics).

and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and All Through the Senate, about the historic health insurance reform vote passage in the Senate on Christmas eve. I discussed fantastical nerdy Senate history (the history of the filibuster, the last time the Senate ever met on Christmas eve, etc).

WOAH. Even 50% of Republicans favor the government offering everyone the option of a govt administered public health insurance option like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans. Now to hold our elected officials accountable to (and more in-touch with) us. Check out the full NYTimes piece including the actual questions and percentages of responses.

2 orgs i recommend checking out:
Health Care for America Now coalition (sign up!)
National Physicians Alliance (most vocal doctors org in the HCAN coalition)

Melissa Harris Lacewell, “Countering Anti-Choice Terrorism”:

I believe the murder of George Tiller was an act of domestic terrorism whose aim was not only to assassinate a single man, but also to frighten a generation of doctors and to shame and terrify women and families who are making difficult choices. While the murderous rage of Tiller’s assassin is not representative of the broader anti-choice movement, I believe that the anti-choice community operates with a totalitarian impulse that generates a culture of terror rather than a culture of life.


Often women must wade through disgusting, painful, and misleading “information” about abortion just to get basic medical advice. While there are political, judicial, and structural aspects to this issue, I want to also make an appeal for the power of our personal narratives to fight back against anti-choice terrorism.

Check out the whole piece…

(cross-posted at CureThis)

Last night, CNBC featured a segment on “Is Health care a right or a privilege?” and invited two speakers to debate the question.

One of the speakers was Dr Mai Pham, senior policy advisor at the National Physicians Alliance (NPA). The NPA fimly believes that health care is a human right and its campaigns and mission speak directly to that. The other speaker was Michael Cannon, director of health policy at the CATO Institute, a free-market, libertarian organization.

Make your own conclusions about some incendiary statements made in this debate, but I must highlight one here.

“Saying health care is a fundamental human right is one of those simplistic nonsense slogans” — Michael Cannon, CATO.

Unbelievable. No it’s not. Saying health care is a fundamental human right is an important statement that we must embrace fully as a society (and to an extent have already embraced).

As guerillamamamedicine recently blogged:

i do not deserve a good job, or a beautiful home, or health care because i went to school and got my degree. i deserve them because i am a human being. if i were to say that i deserve them because of how many years i spent in school, or how much money i paid to go to school, or the number of letters behind my name, then i am saying that i deserve basic human dignity because of my educational privilege.

- – - – -

I applaud Dr. Pham’s calm and composure in the debate. There is much to loearn from her regarding how to stay on point and how to debate an issue articulately.

In any case, it was a pleasant surprise to see this issue covered by CNBC; perhaps the station will cover such issues in the future.


I penned a piece for on last week’s White House Regional Health Forum – held at the California Endowment in downtown Los Angeles, and the well-populated single-payer rally outside the event. Thanks to Dr Susan Partovi for the photos.

Check it out! If you’re a registered user at LAist, you can comment or recommend the post.

Cure This, a project that a few of us started over a year ago, has experienced some slow but immensely beautiful growth. We’ve got some exciting plans for 2009, and they’ll be shared shortly (and we’ll eagerly be awaiting your thoughts on our thoughts), but first a quick look at the 3 newest posts in the ’09, head there to read them:

Moving and Remembering — by brownfemipower. An excerpt:

And how can women who are ready to do deeply intensive work on their muscles/body be supported emotionally and mentally through the many issues that work may bring up in them-without demonizing women who aren’t ready, feel no need to ever be ready, or whom this situation simply doesn’t apply to?

Why it’s Time II: second first same as the first
— by cameronpage. An excerpt:

So really, this story is for those who live in fear that single-payer healthcare will give us long waiting periods. Let’s be clear about it: we’ve already been given long waiting periods. The HMOs gave them to us. But what the HMOs giveth, we can taketh away. We just have to decideth to.

Obama chooses “shiny” Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General — by los anjalis. An excerpt:

Clear conflicts of interest prevailed in Gupta’s discussion of the health care system. As a journalist, I’m sure he would have fact-checked better — if not nudged by CNN’s advertisers interests. I’d like our top doc in the White House to be conflict-of-interest free, in the name of restoring integrity to our public health system.

Head over to Cure This to check out the full posts! Please feel free to add constructive comments, we could use some more discussion at the site. It’s easy as 1-2-3 to set up an account. You can also write your own “diary” that’s posted on the right side of the page and folks can vote on it, recommend it, discuss it! As you take a look at Cure This, if you have suggestions for improving the site, please feel free to drop them here in the comments until we have a formal feedback process housed there. Lastly, please share the website with friends and colleagues. More to come for the ’09!

(Below is cross-posted a post I wrote over at

Human Rights
Photo by tao_zhyn on Flickr

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UHDR), adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The 30 articles of this declaration were written after the Second World War and represent the first global expression of human rights worldwide. The UHDR is the most translated document in the world and has inspired many international treaties and laws.

Now is as good a time as ever to remind ourselves of the human rights issues prevailing abroad, in the US, and here in Los Angeles. Violence and human rights abuses exist around the world, currently in Zimbabwe, Mumbai, Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan, among other regions. Millions go without clean water or enough food. And a global financial crisis is ever present.

It is easy to focus on human rights abroad, but here in Los Angeles we have our own slew of human rights violations, including a housing crisis, homelessness, ICE raids, police brutality, displacement of communities in the name of development, health care access problems, unprocessed rape kits, and an increasing disparity between the wealthy and the poor. At the same time, there is much reason for hope.

One shining local example of this is in South Los Angeles, the area formerly known as South Central LA, where a unique coalition of health care providers, promotoras, and dedicated community organizations recently teamed up to address “The Perfect Storm” – the combination of homelessness, the housing/credit crisis, public health, and law enforcement issues. The coalition, known as the Homelessness Prevention and Intervention Collaborative, conducted an exhaustive survey of homelessness in South Los Angeles. And in October, they announced the findings of a report — Taming the Perfect Storm — written by Dr Rishi Manchanda, Director of Social Medicine at St. Johns Well Child and Family Center and the coordinator of the collective. In addition to describing the problem, the report presents recommendations for human-rights based solutions to the crisis in South LA. The report is well worth reading and concludes with:

In the nation as a whole, persistent widespread homelessness and the health care crisis offer compelling evidence of a collective disregard for human rights. Few places exhibit the ill effects of this disregard like South Los Angeles. Conversely, no other community stands to benefit as much from a community-based human rights approach to health. With a firm understanding of the links between critical determinants of health like housing, public and community health resources, and law enforcement policy, we commit to build the political will and skills needed to tame this perfect storm of homelessness and poor health. In short, we commit to reclaim and redefine our community guided by the practical application of fundamental human rights principles. As an important stage of community dialogue on the right to health, housing, and security begins, we welcome all constructive comments and critiques of this report.

On a national level, our President-Elect Barack Obama has stated a commitment to shutting down Guantanamo, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, strengthening the United Nations, improving diplomatic relations with other countries, and paying attention to the global crises of poverty and HIV/AIDS worldwide. And on this 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the official website of the United Nations notes:

“Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and ‘to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.’”

On that note, I encourage you to read the 30 articles of the declaration. Aloud. To friends, family, anybody who will listen. In declaratory fashion. Try it. It’s quite compelling and a quick read. (idea inspired by my friend Linda who suggested this to me and 4 other friends as we were building and dreaming, during a break at a conference in El Salvador last year).

(cross-posted at LAist and Cure This)

Photos by jbhangoo via flickr; graphic and videos from Students for Bhopal

Today marks the 24th anniversary of the world’s worst industrial disaster — one that has been called the “Hiroshima of the chemical industry” and that took place in Bhopal, India. Around midnight on December 3rd, 1984, a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal leaked 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate. Safety systems were not operational and the gas spread through the city. Thousands died that night, more than 20,000 have died to date as a result of the effects of the exposure, and over 100,000 people still suffer from ailments caused by the exposure. From, a harrowing account of the fateful night 24 years ago:

Shortly after midnight poison gas leaked from a factory in Bhopal, India, owned by the Union Carbide Corporation. There was no warning, none of the plant’s safety systems were working. In the city people were sleeping. They woke in darkness to the sound of screams with the gases burning their eyes, noses and mouths. They began retching and coughing up froth streaked with blood. Whole neighborhoods fled in panic, some were trampled, others convulsed and fell dead. People lost control of their bowels and bladders as they ran. Within hours thousands of dead bodies lay in the streets.

“We all live in Bhopal” is a common saying among the environmental justice movement, and it is relevant to LA residents too. We have no lack of potential and real environmental injustices, and no paucity of corporate crimes. Also of interest, the first ever nuclear accident actually occurred in Simi Valley in 1959, as noted in LAist previously:

We had no idea that Simi Valley was the site of America’s first nuclear accident (obviously we should watch more History Channel). At the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a liquid sodium reactor had a partial meltdown in 1959; the facts weren’t made public until UCLA investigated 20 years later. Researchers speculate that the radiation released was as much as 240 times that of the Three Mile Island accident. Exactly what was contaminated in the area, and by how much, was never accurately measured. Yikes, just 30 miles from downtown LA.

More on the Bhopal tragedy:

bhopal%20union%20carbide%20plant.jpg“The site has never been properly cleaned up and it continues to poison the residents of Bhopal. In 1999, local groundwater and wellwater testing near the site of the accident revealed mercury at levels between 20,000 and 6 million times those expected. Cancer and brain-damage- and birth-defect-causing chemicals were found in the water; trichloroethene, a chemical that has been shown to impair fetal development, was found at levels 50 times higher than EPA safety limits. Testing published in a 2002 report revealed poisons such as 1,3,5 trichlorobenzene, dichloromethane, chloroform, lead and mercury in the breast milk of nursing women. In 2001, Michigan-based chemical corporation Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide, thereby acquiring its assets and liabilities. However Dow Chemical has steadfastly refused to clean up the site, provide safe drinking water, compensate the victims, or disclose the composition of the gas leak, information that doctors could use to properly treat the victims.”

And if you have the stomach for this personal story, Aziza Sultan, a community health worker at the Sambhavna Clinic shares her personal account of that horrific night.

The pursuit of justice around the Bhopal tragedy is also a study in effective strategizing for positive change. The courageous residents of Bhopal, also known as Bhopalis, have captured the energies of social justice activists and students around the world. Bhopali women and children have performed numerous direct actions aimed at the most powerful leaders in India and America. The Bhopal Medical Appeal and the Sambhavna Trust Clinic were created to provide treatment and rehabilitation for victims and their families. And the activists’ relentlessness has finally paid off, and last month the government of India promised to create an Empowered Commission on Bhopal and take legal action on the criminal and civil liabilities of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical.

In a movement of solidarity, students at colleges and universities around the world have for years engaged in online actions, sent letters and faxes to the Indian government, and hosted thousands of events at their own campuses around the issues of the Bhopal tragedy.

Awareness about this disaster in Bhopal is important not only for its historical and present significance, but also because the battle to clean up the site of the power plant, compensate victims appropriately, and to stop completely preventable disasters like this around the world continues. December 3rd is noted as the Global Day of Action for Corporate Accountability, in memory of the Bhopal tragedy. From

Dow, the creator of Napalm, Agent Orange and responsible for Dioxin related deaths and diseases worldwide is not the only corporation that kills and maims people and causes irreparable damage to the planet. Wherever we may live, corporate greed and industrial poisons affect our lives and health through slow and silent Bhopals. Justice in Bhopal means justice for the poisoned everywhere.

Below is a poster that was distributed worldwide during the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster:


Links of interest:
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal —
The Bhopal Medical Appeal and Sambhavna Clinic —
The worldwide student movement — Students for Bhopal

(cross-posted at Cure This)

I just received an email from The Gesundheit! Institute in West Virgina (run by Patch Adams and friends) — they’ve put out a call for applicants to their 2008-2009 Health Care Justice Gathering in West Virginia. These folks are non-traditional thinkers and dreamers, in every sense. I love the questions they’ve included on the application to the gathering:

3. What is your dream practice of medicine?

4. What is your expression of love? What connects you to people?

5. What is community to you? What do you consider your community? Who is your community?

6. If Peter piped a pickled-pepper, what is the most likely medical condition that he has, and how would you treat it?

Gotta love it!

More info on the gathering:

The Healthcare Justice Gathering is an activism-oriented meeting of students, physicians, medical professionals, clowns, and community-builders, whose programming is organized and created by its participants. Initially started in 2005 by the Direct Action Interest Group at AMSA, the HJG is going on its fourth year and has expanded to include a workshop-based gathering at Patch Adams’ Gesundheit! Institute in Hillsboro, WV scheduled for Dec 31th 2008- Jan 3rd 2009.

Past conferences have included workshops on: Building Novel Model Health Clinics, Coalitions, Liberation Medicine, Body Language and Greetings, Medical School Curriculum, Laughter Yoga, Diversity and Racism, Permaculture and Land Sustainability, Media Tools for Activism, and the Economics of National Healthcare. Patch Adams, Susan Parenti, John Glick, Lanny Smith, John Stang, Andru Ziwasimon, and many other physician-activists have participated and presented, and we are looking to have a similarly brilliant line-up this year.

Doc Andru Ziwasimon is user aziwa on Cure This and an innovative leader in health and justice in New Mexico. And Lanny Smith, founder of Doctors for Global Health and tireless activist doc.

Pretty cool.

(Cross-posted at Cure This)

It’s so exciting that health care is receiving top attention in the presidential election this year. The past few weeks have shown an unprecedented focus on the two major party presidential candidates’ visions of health care issues.

The fire quotes of this past week on health care were these two by Senator Obama. On McCain’s health care plan:

It’s like those ads for prescription drugs. You know they start off, everybody’s running in the fields, everybody’s happy. Then there’s the fine print that says, “Side effects may include…”

And on right vs privilege:

I think every single american has a right to affordable, accessible health care.

Of note, this statement received the largest roar of support from the crowd he was speaking to. Some video footage of a speech Obama gave last week:

Some things that Obama mentioned:

Senator McCain wants to pay for his plan by taxing your health benefits for the first time in history…

But the Wall Street Journal recently reported…it turns out Senator McCain would pay for his plan by making drastic cuts in Medicare — $882 billion worth. $882 billion dollars in Medicare cuts to pay for an ill conceived, badly thought through health care plan…

Time and again he’s opposed Medicare. In fact, Senator McCain has voted against protecting Medicare 40 times.

When you’ve worked hard your whole life, and paid into the system, and done everythign right, you shouldn’t have the carpet pulled out from under you when you least expect it…

(cross-posted at Cure This)

On Memorial Day, Helen Benedict writes about the challenges facing our women warriors as they return home from duty. She follows up with a strong call to action. From “For Women Warriors, Deep Wounds, Little Care”:

Women make up some 15 percent of the United States active duty forces, and 11 percent of the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly a third of female veterans say they were sexually assaulted or raped while in the military, and 71 percent to 90 percent say they were sexually harassed by the men with whom they served.

This sort of abuse drastically increases the risk and intensity of post-traumatic stress disorder. One study found that female soldiers who were sexually assaulted were nine times more likely to show symptoms of this disorder than those who weren’t. Sexual harassment by itself is so destructive, another study revealed, it causes the same rates of post-traumatic stress in women as combat does in men. And rape can lead to other medical crises, including diabetes, asthma, chronic pelvic pain, eating disorders, miscarriages and hypertension…

As women return for repeat tours, usually redeploying with their same units, many must go back to war with the same man (or men) who abused them. This leaves these women as threatened by their own comrades as by the war itself. Yet the combination of sexual assault and combat has barely been acknowledged or studied…

As the more than 191,500 women who have served in the Middle East since 2001 return home, they will increasingly flood the Veterans Affairs system. To ask those who need help for post-traumatic stress disorder to turn to a typical Veterans Affairs hospital, built in the 1950s and designed to treat men, is untenable. Women who have been raped or sexually assaulted often cannot face therapy groups or medical facilities full of men.

Wow. This is so true. There aren’t many women patients at VA hospitals and clinics. The facilities are often limited and specifically and traditionally for men, and they’re hardly equipped to treat women dealing with PTSD or sexual abuse. The urgency of this cannot be understated.

At the moment, the Department of Veterans Affairs operates only six inpatient post-traumatic stress disorder programs specifically for women. And although all 153 department-run hospitals will treat women, only 22 have stand-alone women’s clinics that offer a full range of medical and psychological services…

Women are the fastest-growing group of veterans, and by 2020 they are projected to account for 20 percent of all veterans under the age of 45. Not all of these women will have suffered sexual assault, but many will have medical or psychological needs that conventional department hospitals cannot meet.

The Department of Veterans Affairs must open more comprehensive women’s health clinics, designate more facilities for women who have endured both combat and military sexual trauma and finance more support groups specifically for female combat veterans. The best way to honor all of our soldiers is to do what we can to help them mend.

An important call to action.

And an open question — what resources are available and what organizations are working on this issue?

From BuzzFeed:

In response to Barack Obama’s calls for change, the Republican’s have unveiled their new “Change You Deserve” campaign for 2008. It turns out the slogan was also used to market the popular anti-depressant, Effexor. Sometimes those Republicans just get things so right.

Check out the link to the drug’s possible side effects! (akathisia, elevated blood pressure, memory loss, brain zaps, vertigo, nausea, wow! How telling, about the GOP’s proposed change we deserve…)

And here’s more information about the “Change You Deserve” intiative, from the republican house leader’s website. Make your own conclusions…

(cross-posted at Cure This)

“If Gaza is the world’s biggest prison, this is the world’s biggest prison break.”
- a reporter

I heard about the massive break through the GazaStrip/Egypt border wall by Palestinians earlier today and couldn’t believe the radio. I knew that Israel had placed tighter restrictions on movement of food, fuel, and necessary medical supplies to Palestinians in the Gaza strip for a long while, and that for the last few days had completely cut off ALL supplies to Gaza (hence the prison reference) but I had to see it for myself. So now I share with you some video of the great 21st century prison break (juuuuust in case the mainstream media is focusing on clinton/obama or on the israeli government’s point of view).


Some background from a physician in Gaza, blogging a few days ago at From Gaza, With Love:

In 2 hours all of the Gaza Strip will sink into darkness completely

Sunday 20 January 2008
I am writing to let you know that in less than 2 hours the last turbine of the Gaza Strip’s only power plant will stop working. The fuel for the power plant fuel will run out in 2 hours.

I hurried to recharge my laptop and my mobile and to wash the clothes. I checked my candles and rechargeable lights !!!!!! I telephoned Al-Awda hospital and was really panicked to learn that we have only have enough fuel for 4 days for the electrical generator!!!!! What more details shall I give?

No electricity leads to no pumped fresh water and no proper sewage system which in turn leads to more diseases and more needs for different surgical operations. But after 4 days no emergency operations can be conducted in our hospitals.

Israel sealed the Gaza Strip completely and strictly on Friday. Even the UN food supplies are not allowed to enter Gaza. 80% of the population at the moment depends on the UN aid and different international aid agencies. The UN staff are also not allowed to leave or enter Gaza. And while Israel is sealing the Gaza Strip it is at the same time intensifying air raids and military ground operations against Gaza. In the last few days 37 people were killed and 120 were injured. Most of them are civilians. It is a desperate attempt to stop the rockets from Gaza against the Israeli villages where the Israeli citizens are complaining of panic attacks. This response with such overreacted operations against Gaza is unjustified. The cutting off of power and fuel is frank collective punishment.

1.5 million of Gaza are dying slowly. They need your help and support. Tell the world that Israel’s search for peace and security will not be achieved by this collective punishment against us.

and 1 month ago she wrote this:

The siege against Gaza has completed its six months 1.5 million of population are not allowed to travel outside Gaza ,many essential medications are not on the local pharmacies shelves as well as the hospital drug stores , tens of necessary goods are lacking only 15 kinds of goods are allowed to enter Gaza regularly , severe shortage of detergents, no cars spare parts , irregular electrical power ,most of local small industries has closed down due to lack of raw materials hundreds of local employees were made redundant , 39 patients have died before getting permit to leave Gaza for treatment in Israel , at least 2000 patients with different urgent health needs, including children with heart diseases and cancer patients , are waiting to be referred for further treatment outside the Gaza strip.

In related news, a member of the former israeli government was on the radio, on NPR’s show Which Way LA, and he commented that Palestinians were given the potential to transform their land’s worth/economy into a Singapore, but had decided to ruin it all, and therefore could not be trusted to govern their own land. He forgot to mention the noose tied just tight enough around palestinian land and the walls built left and right and the limitations of everyday necessary goods into Palestine. Minor details, eh?

Woohoo! Doctors for John Edwards!

A physician posted a diary over at Daily Kos entitled “A Physician’s View of John Edwards” and has received quite a warm crowd of positive responses from other physicians who feel as passionately about Edwards. A few months ago, two friends and I thought it would be super rad to create an informal Docs for Edwards group, to put some weight of support behind Edwards from what others might initially think was an unlikely group of supporters given his work in medical malpractice. Physicians too often have a knee-jerk negative reaction to Edwards, because of his previous work. But that work was directly supporting patients who had been wrongly treated, and for those who like to think more broadly about presidential candidates, Edwards really has something to deliver on universal health care, labor/trade issues, medical review boards, economic justice, and other truly important issues. Plus, check out who taketh the money:

Do you know which two United States senators took in the most money from HMOs this current cycle?

#1. Hillary Clinton
#2. Barack Obama

First and second place– out of all 100 senators, Republican and Democrat. (from Open Secrets)

Health Services/HMOs: Money to Congress, Election cycle: 2008

1) Clinton, Hillary (D) — $246,480

2) Obama, Barack (D) — $175,093

John Edwards was completely right– the Clintons had all three branches of government, and they didn’t get anything passed that remotely resembled Universal Health Care. Regardless of their true intentions, that’s what “sitting at the table” gets you.

John has a history of taking on big HMOs for the little guy and winning. He and Elizabeth are now fighting to bring good health care coverage inexpensively to everyone.

Just like they’re fighting to end global warming and our dependence on non-renewable energy.

Just like they’re fighting to redeploy the combat troops from Iraq, and bring most of them home to their families.

I can’t speak for all physicians, but this physician trusts John Edwards to do the right thing.

Corporate control of congress must come to an end– now.

We deserve a President who is bought and paid for by the American people.

Oooh I like that — we deserve a president who is bought and paid for by the American people! Edwards repeatedly talks about the corporate interests in medicine, something that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama omit from their discussions (for reasons stated above, perhaps?) And I recall Edwards saying, “when i’m president, dissent will once again be patriotic”.

(yes, it’s true, Kucinich has the MOST progressive platform of ANY democratic candidate, by a landslide. But it’s a discussion for another time — why I’d vote for Edwards over Kucinich right now, when it’s SO imperative that we have a dem win in 2008. though i did hear on KPFK FM this morning that Kucinich is risin’ up in the polls for the Iowa primaries, and that’s SUPER rad).

(cross-posted at Cure This)

salee - no more victims

Iraq to Catalina Island, Salee Allawe and her father. Photo by Allen Schaben, LA Times.

The 10-year-old girl lost her legs in what her family said was a U.S. air strike on the outskirts of Baghdad last November. Salee, who was discovered by her mother dragging herself over a pile of bricks, helped identify the remains of her 13-year-old brother and her best friend, who were killed in the same incident.

Salee recently was fitted with mechanical knees and prosthetic limbs at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville, S.C. Her sponsors wanted to give her a happy memory before she returns to her war-torn country next Monday.

So they brought her and her father to Catalina Island…

Her companions included Mahmood and two people who raised most of the funds to bring Salee to the United States in July for corrective surgery: social worker Ann Cothran of Greenville, N.C., and Cole Miller, founder of Los Angeles-based No More Victims, a grass-roots organization dedicated to assisting Iraqi children injured in the war.

“There are thousands of Salees in Iraq,” Miller said. “I don’t consider this charity. It’s responsibility.”

Salee’s story is so tragic, but this outpouring of love and medical care is so beautiful.  Providing health care for victims of American attacks abroad is the mission of his group No More Victims (NMV). Here’s a moving video where he addresses privilege, our ability to provide healthcare, and the potential of individuals and communities to take action together:

Cole Miller is uplifting in his analysis. Americans are banding together — there are NMV groups around the country. The organization has also begun sending medical supplies to Iraq and other countries (you can donate money online).

And on an entertaining note, Salee Allawe (the girl discussed above) whispered to her translator while on Catalina Island:

“I want to be a photographer when I grow up. But don’t tell anyone because all the kids I know want to be doctors.”

Denver area folks (and friends of people living in Denver) — check out the upcoming gathering this month, of passionate doctors, allied health professionals, and community members, and please pass on the message to anyone and everyone you know who might be interested in participating:

Attention Denver Area Health Professionals & Community Members-

Are you feeling frustrated with the reality of health care in this country?

Do you care for medically vulnerable populations?

Do you want to learn more about advocacy work?

If so, REGISTER NOW for early bird discounts (before October 19th) for

NPA’s Leadership Institute: Strategies for Serving Vulnerable Populations

Saturday, October 27th 8:30am-5pm

Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital

Open to all who want to learn how to address the health care challenges of vulnerable populations, expand their advocacy skill set and network with like-minded colleagues dedicated to better health care for all!

Presenters will include:

Dr. Edward Farrell, Medical Director of Stout Street Clinic, Denver, Colorado.

Colorado State Senator Shawn Mitchell, Member of the Health & Human Services Committee

Dr. Angela Sauaia, Director of the Cultural Competency and Diversity Curriculum of the University of Colorado School of Medicine

Monica Griego, Legislative Director, Colorado Consumer Health Initiative

Dr. Howie Wolf, Vice President of Health Care for All Colorado

And Others!

For more information or to register, see complete details at:

Questions? Contact Maggie M. Chin, MD, NPA Regional Meeting Committee Chair at

…where I’m surrounded by 30 amazing progressive and passionate doctors, at the National Physicians Alliance board and committees meeting!We’re having some serious discussions and strategizing together on health care issues, advocating for our patients and the public’s health, and building a more robust organization in the process.

The NPA does not accept ANY money from pharmaceutical companies, AND advocates strongly against physicians and physicians’ organizations having an unhealthy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.

In addition, we’re discussing our access to health initiatives, building our global health workforce initiative, responding to the SCHIP insurance cuts crisis, and developing our race/medicine and institutional racism (undoing racism) analyses.

It’s nothing less than a party. With ideas. And energy. Of a positive future of integrity in medicine. And the coffee is being drunk like the wine it is at meetings like this.

First, check out an amazing Democracy Now! interview with the founders of the Common Ground Collective.

Now, I share with you, a reflection by G Bitch, who’s been living in and blogging about New Orleans for a long time (thanks to BFP for introducing me to GB’s blog):

I was fine yesterday, really I was. Today, I’m pissed, shaking, ready to spit fire and nails full blast, all day, at anything. What is it? Oh, yeah, the minority of voices like the Usual Fuckateer Commenters on national sites (I avoid reading comments for many good reasons and managed to forget them yesterday long enough to read a handful and on The Day of The Floods) and the sometimes willful, usually well-intentioned shifting of the conversation and the focus to the individual, to volunteers and church groups and bright young college-educated 20- and 30-somethings and earnest nonprofits. I love all that and all those people and we need the insight they take away with them to the rest of the country but no amount of volunteer action can fix levees badly designed or maintain them if they are ever fixed, assess taxes and evaluate tax rates, or create an actual workable, understandable, desegregated and at least somewhat fair school system (without quotation marks). Volunteers and individuals can only do so much. And in thanking and congratulating and singing the praise songs of them we cannot, should not forget the larger picture, the larger problems–urban somewhat-malign neglect, testing instead of educating, writing off the poor and brown, blaming victims, sidestepping malice-laced ignorance behind public policy and grants, the twisting of a region’s arm with their children held at gunpoint, a bureaucracy built to fail and thwart instead of serve, the delusion that folks who aren’t home yet aren’t needed, the bullshit idea that we are the blank slate/experiment/testing ground for whoever flies in and says s/he’s got ideas, people’s lives toyed with like shit-stained old domino pieces in the street somewhere.

It’s nice y’all are coming but we need our people back, the people who worked full-time and paid their taxes and shopped at whatever grocery store it was that week while it was still the fuck there, teachers (they weren’t all incompetent or evil), nurses, social workers, x-ray technicians, psychiatric aides, maids, cooks, lawnmower repairmen, college graduates, high school dropouts, the people who were here before and at least made it look like this broken fucking city worked half the time. We held it together. Now we’re unimportant?

I realize that I mentioned Cure This on this site recently but made no mention of what it was and why. Here’s a quick description:

For two and a half years, “Cure This” was a pipe dream shared by just a handful of us. We envisioned a grand goal: to create an online space to discuss health in its broadest sense, share personal stories, creatively make positive change, and build an online community along the way — connecting us locally, nationally, and perhaps internationally. We envisioned a humble beginning: here and now.

Cure This has now transformed into a reality, and we’re excited beyond words. We welcome it into this world with a loving, gentle nudge and an encouraging whisper in its ear. Let the beautiful journey begin.

Yes! We have 25 users so far and quite a few posts. Lively discussion has begun on the site. We hope it may be a “home” of sorts for important discussion of broad health issues, and a place where stories can be shared and strategy discussed. We hope to feed people to organizations that are doing amazing work, and possibly connect smaller groups who thought that nobody else in the world was doing similar work :>

New features are being implemented daily, thanks to my wonderful, wonderful brother Nalin, who’s doing all the programming and creative design for the site. We’re rolling out a “recommended diaries” section where the most highly voted posts will hang out. We’re rolling out profiles for users (so others can understand some of the context of where they’re coming from, and which will serve as a mechanism for folks to network with each other). A few “how-to’s” will also be posted, for those wondering how to write posts, how to navigate around the site, etc. We’re also down with any suggestions you may have.

I shared the website and the idea with quite a few people at the United States Social Forum last weekend, and the response was total excitement. sweet…

Please check out Cure This and feel free to create a free user account and comment or post as you’d like, on issues of health, activism, SICKO, well-being, neighborhoods, etc. it’s free reign for now! Organic evolution!

so it’s on — a few of us family medicine resident docs at Harbor-UCLA are hoppin’ over to Chiapas (mexico) in September for two weeks — to do full-scope family medicine in a rural hospital (deliver babies, treat the common diseases, treat the “tropical” diseases)! I’ve gotta become more fluent in spanish in the next few months, as our translators will translate from spanish to tzeltal – the indigenous language). I’m only starting to explore what Chiapas is like in regards to people, revolution, heatlhcare, etc, but i’ll post more of the exploration as the journey approaches. A few of last year’s crew of residents shared their experiences on the Harbor-UCLA Family Medicine Residency blog — click on the category “liveblogging from chiapas” for their stories. An excerpt from a friend’s post:

8-29-06 Today, consulta. Giardia, otitis media, gingivitis, allergic rhinitis, admission for [woman in] active labor. I´m learning a little tzeltal [indigenous language] along the way. So far, I´ve got yes, no, rain, and pain. I have not seen so much malnutrition since starting medicine. Older women here routinely weigh less than 40 kilos. Many families have only posole (a sort of maize porridge) to feed their children. The result – protein-calorie malnutrition, with iron and other deficiencies. One woman I saw for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (too many years over a smoky wood stove) offered me eight eggs, carefully wrapped in corn husks, and 3 kg of plantains. She weighed 37 kg herself.

for the National Physicians Alliance board of directors and national committees meeting starting today! Should be fun. We’ve got quite a broad agenda to discuss, so it’s going to be a 4 cups of coffee a day kind of weekend, with little sleep, lots of wonderful ideas, and of course lasting inspiration that’ll keep me going for the next week iof work (and longer!), before my trip to New Jersey and New York City to visit my parents and attend a good friend’s wedding. looking forward to riding the chicago metro later today…

In the meantime, please keep checkin’ in at the National Physicians Alliance blog. If you’re a doctor, you’re free to register yourself and either write a post or comment on a post!

We are adaptable creatures, and while that is generally good, sometimes it’s a problem. We have no difficulty taking prompt action when faced with a sudden calamity, like a bleeding head wound, say, or a terrorist attack. But we are not good at moving against the creeping, more insidious threats — whether a slow-growing tumor, waistline or debt.

It’s as true of societies as of individuals. We did not muster the will to reform our long-broken banking system, for example, until it actually collapsed in the Great Depression.

This is, in a nutshell, the trouble with our health care crisis. Our health care system has eroded badly, but it has not collapsed. So we do nothing.

For at least two decades, polls have shown that most consider our health system seriously flawed. With family insurance premiums now averaging $12,000 a year, the insured fear it will become unaffordable, and businesses regard health benefit costs as their single greatest obstacle to competing globally.

People without insurance are proven to be more likely to die, and 28 percent of working-age Americans are now uninsured for at least part of a year. Emergency rooms, required to care for the uninsured, have become so full they turned away 500,000 ambulances last year. As a result, large majorities support the idea of fundamental change…

from Atul Gawande’s commentary “Can this Patient be Saved?” NYTimes May 5,2007. (thanks to Donkey O.D. for sharing the full piece, which is otherwise on the payola-only section of the Times website).

The bolded section above (emphasis mine) is a pet peeve of mine — we’ve put billions and billions into disaster preparedness and bioterrorism work in the past few years, and we’ve taken billions OUT of more insiduous killers like chronic disease programs, integral public health mechanisms, and such basics as housing, food, transportation, etc.

I work at a county hospital and clinic in Los Angeles, where we mostly treat the uninsured, underinsured, or undocumented.  We’re the safety net hospital in the area.  However, we’ve been packed to the brim and have had to say no to ambulances (channel them to other county or non-county emergency rooms) over and over and over again. Now that’s what I call scary.  Spillover from a safety net hospital.
Also — the cost that Gawande mentions for health insurance for a family isn’t overstated.  Even in California, individual health plans are more than $4500 a year, and family plans are definitely more than $12,000 a year.  And what’s minimum wage, in California or in the U.S.?  You do the math.  (Obviously this cost is too high even for middle-class folks!) That’s f***’ed up.  Where’s our revolution?