On Feb. 4, OHSU medical students joined nearly 1,000 people on the steps of the capitol in Salem to rally for single-payer health care in Oregon. The event was organized by Health Care for All Oregon, and coincided with the first day of the legislative session.
"The rally centered around the simple notion that health care is a human right, one of the moral underpinnings of the struggle to achieve universal health care in the state of Oregon," said Gabriel Edwards, MS1.
Edwards joined fellow OHSU students, patients, doctors, nurses, and legislators at the rally.
As a future physician, Edwards said his medical education "will be strongly impacted" by the degree to which the health care system allows practitioners to deliver care effectively. "But right now we have a fragmented and inefficient system that often renders treatment more dependent upon what patients can afford than what they actually need," he said.
Sowmya Palam, MS1, also attended the rally. Prior to starting medical school, she worked at Portland's Outside In health clinic and saw first-hand, what she described as "the painful reality that many of our underserved and uninsured communities face in a flawed health care system."
This experience fueled her desire to not only actively engage in the health care reform process, but to also inspire her classmates and others to do the same in support of universal health care.
"This rally was important to me," Palam said, "because we are the future generation of physicians who can reject the status quo and strive to improve health care equality." Palam said that no patient should be turned away because they cannot afford health care, or go broke from a medical bill. "It was also a great opportunity to meet health professionals who have been working in the field for years and hear their experience and struggles with our health care system."
Palam and Edwards started the Students for Healthcare Reform interest group this past year with the goal of encouraging more student participation in reform, as well as getting involved with activities like the recent rally.
"We know that there is lot of support among students for universal health care," said Palam. "It's important for students to be part of this process, since it makes a huge difference when legislators and the community see how much we medical students, and other health students, care. Unless we all collectively do something right now, it will be a slow process to see the change in that direction."
In 2008, OHSU adopted Eight Essential Principles for Health Care Reform, the first of which supports universal access.
Pictured: (Left to right) Ross Hart, nursing student; Sowmya Palam, MS1; Gabriel Edwards, MS1; Ashley McClary, MS2