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Patients Over Politics – A New Day

By Dr. Evan Saulino
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Our growing crew of doctors, medical students, and patients is on the move – the Patients Over Politics Bus Tour is headed north.  Yesterday, we spent most of the day in Gainesville, Florida, and today we’re on the road to Atlanta, Georgia. 

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 Entering Gator country with a police escort, we fanned out across the University of Florida campus in Gainesville.  

 Half the group engaged undergraduate students near Reitz student union, passing out health reform educational flyers, fans, and condoms  - yes, condoms – a great way to get college students’ attention and promote prevention at the same time!  

Scott Poppen, an Internal Medicine physician from Utah, was interviewed by National Public Radio, and a student reporter from the University newspaper was staked out taking pictures of the Patients Over Politics Bus parked on the square under the long tendrils of Spanish moss.

 The other half of the Patients Over Politics contingent concentrated on education and leadership training events at the University of Florida School of Medicine.  These events were incredibly well attended – the rooms full of students from all four years of medical school.  The students were engaged, asking great questions, signed our Declaration of Support, and expressed their determination to use these events as a springboard - volunteering to organize more actions in support of the Patients Over Politics Campaign.  A big THANK YOU to the U. of Florida student AMA chapter leaders for help in making these events a success!

 In the evening we headed up I-75, left Florida, and stopped for peach cider and boiled peanuts (yum!) on the way to Valdosta, Georgia where we spent the night.

 We were all dog-tired by the time we reached the roadside motel in Valdosta, but still the group gathered around to talk with the hotel clerk when she came out from behind the counter to engage us, wanting to know more about Doctors for America, wanting to tell us her story – just like so many other hardworking Americans we’ve met on the Tour.

She shared her recent diagnosis of Stage 3B melanoma, and although she has insurance and is getting treatment, she is constantly afraid her husband will lose his job – which she knows would mean she would lose her health insurance – her lifeline – and would leave her “uninsurable” with a “pre-existing condition”. 

“It gives me nightmares!” she said, and thanked us for “speaking up for what’s right”.  And she was thrilled to hear that the Affordable Care Act outlaws “pre-existing condition” exclusions from coverage starting January 1, 2014. 

 As I write this, it’s a new day in Georgia – a new day in America…

We will continue on our journey  - engaging, educating, empowering all along the way. 

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Sunrise in Valdosta, Georgia September 1, 2012

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