By Lisa Plymate, MD, Seattle, NPA Board of Directors Member, NPA FDA Task Force Co-Chair
So many of us were stunned by election night Nov. 8th – We felt suspended in a nightmare for days. I almost cancelled my trip to Washington D.C. to attend our NPA Board meeting, just 3 days post election. It wasn’t the outcome we had anticipated. Not at all. But once there, I slowly came around to realizing the only way to live with all this was to take action. All we can do, after all, is everything we can do…. preferably working in a group of people who feel deeply about our combined call to action.
Back in Seattle I talked with physician leaders in our health care reform movement. Everyone wanted us to do something. On Dec. 10th, we had our first house meeting – 16 fired-up physicians, several completely new to “the fight” and a speaker, chair of the state House Health Care Committee, discussing how repealing the Affordable Care Act might affect Washington state. We weren’t sure where we were going, but we wanted this to be an inclusive coalition, with involvement of doctors from several different physician advocacy groups. Every person there was grateful to have a chance to fight for our patients’ rights and wanted us to continue.
Our next big opportunity came with the January rallies centered around the Inauguration. By that time our email list of motivated doctors was up to 30, and we mobilized a group of 18 of them to take part in the Seattle rally to Save our HealthCare. The day before, we held a sign-making party at another home in Seattle. Over two hours, we enjoyed reviving our long-lost creative drawing skills and came up with a great bunch of “artistic” homemade signs: We were ready.
The next day, on our Martin Luther King holiday weekend, we joined together in our white coats, with our handmade signs and our brand-new banner for the rally in a large plaza in downtown Seattle. We were in a crowd of 2,000 as we listened to patients, caregivers, labor leaders and finally our Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal speak about health care as a right for everyone. Probably the most amazing part to me was the response we got as doctors, out in our white coats, at a rally. So many fellow marchers came up and thanked us, and several wanted pictures of us, sometimes with themselves in the photos “with all the doctors”! We had one woman ask, “Are you really doctors – or are you just people wearing doctor coats to represent doctors?” We assured her we were the real thing!
A bigger question might be, why aren’t there MORE doctors out marching?! It’s up to us to find those who are willing and get them out there. As our Congresswoman put it, “Someone organized you, now you go out there and bring out 5 more people!” And that is what our group, now up to 35, wants to do. Next weekend will be the Woman’s March, and we’ve got medical students talking to other students, residents bringing out residents, fellows coming together, practitioners from the major health organizations – many of whom have never marched for anything – out there, on the streets, letting everyone know, on this MLK weekend, that “We shall not be moved.” That we will continue in this fight until everyone in this country has access to affordable, high quality care. And as we all grow this movement, across the country, we know that “We shall overcome.”