…The next speaker who presented at the “Presidents Program” should have run for President herself, and I don’t mean of ACOG, Dr. Joycelyn Elders. I have heard her speak before, but this was one of her finest moments. She started with the accurate observation that our country does NOT deliver health care; it delivers "sick care.” There are more than 47,000,000 people in the U.S. who have NO health insurance and must rely on emergency services for even their most basic health care-related needs at an extraordinary financial drain and compromise to the efficiency of those services and the continuity of care provided.
She focused on the fact that we do not educate our children well on the importance of health, nutrition and exercise, family and responsibility. We deny our sexuality as humans, and we have leaders who naively believe that “just saying no” is the answer to all our problems. “There would be no abortions if there were no unwanted, or unplanned, pregnancies,” she said and pointed to fact that our leaders have taken the holier than though approach of putting their heads in the sand rather than to face the realities of earlier and earlier puberty in children, particularly Black children, when these children "have the hormonal imperative to reproduce" and can be readily influenced by others, not many years older, and before they can make good decisions, or even have an understanding of their sexuality and its consequences.
She supported the belief many of us have espoused for years that these are issues that need to be sensibly addressed in the schools starting at a very early age – kindergarten – because many of the kids that need it the most, don’t have the family structure to insure that they will ever be addressed at home, and those that do, may not have parents (or other caretakers) who are very good at doing it themselves for the most part due to their own lack of education and understanding. (Recently, I saw an eleven year old who was 29 ½ weeks pregnant when she arrived for her first prenatal visit. The patient had no clue what was going on, but her mother was “so excited we are going to have a girl” and all I could think about was finding the guy (probably many years older) who had gotten her pregnant and taking him off the streets).
Dr. Elders pointed to the inequity in health care services, not just among the poor and “people of color”, but in the general care and resources available to women and children. “We have the finest doctors in the world and the most advanced technology, but rank well down the list of industrialized nations” in terms of medical complications related to obesity, preterm labor, perinatal mortality, nutrition, and resources and programs to promote the health and well-being of individuals and families. Our politicians talk about, and build their careers, on rhetoric regarding the importance of these things, but do not “walk the walk.” In her own way, Dr. Elders so poignantly illustrated the same points recently hammered home by Lee Iacocca…we don’t have good leaders, we have lost our focus as a nation. We spend two billion dollars a DAY in Iraq and we can’t provide $275,000,000 a YEAR for inexpensive, cost-effective contraceptive programs. “JUST SAY NO” isn’t the answer we should be giving our children; it is the response we should be giving to the politicians on both the state and national levels when they cut programs for those least able to fight for themselves. The tears Dr. Elders gave me were based on her passion and the truth and honesty of her words and vision. She got a standing ovation.
The last speaker, Dr. Dale Hull, also provided inspiration (and wet eyes) by his personal experiences as a patient. Dr. Hull had a well-established OB/GYN practice in Utah when he was paralyzed from the neck down with a spinal cord injury suffered on the trampoline in his back yard. “True adversity is never what we planned or expected, but how we respond to that adversity makes us the people we can become.” He described his years of experience as a patient, the grief and anger, the loss of independence, the dedication of his health care providers, the support of his family and friends, his wife’s undying optimism that his body would heal, and his “miraculous” partial recovery in steps coincident with organized prayer. He emphasized the importance as physicians in providing to our patients not only our professional skills, but in keeping the door of hope open, and the power of offering “nonmedically-related touch” as an affirmation of the patient as a person. Although his recovery has gone well beyond what any of his providers ever expected (he was able to ‘carry the torch’ for a segment of the Winter Olympics in Utah) he has come to accept his limitations and no longer asks “Why or how this could happen to me?” (But he did get rid of the trampoline he had in his back yard!)
On a lighter note, I found a great place to eat tonight, if you are ever on Coronado Island across the bay from San Diego. Not far from the Hotel del Coronada on Orange Drive is the Bistro d’Asia. I started with the “Thai cucumber salad” and that was very tasty and refreshing. But, for my entrée, I got one of tonight’s ‘specials’, the “Dirty Vegas Roll,” a sushi dish made up of soft shell crab, spicy tuna, cucumber, and avocado, topped with crawfish salad, spicy aioli, and green onions, and it was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS…and very nice with the Chardonnay I ordered. Bon appetit et a demain!....