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Our democracy and our future

By Dr. Alice Chen

Today is an important day for our nation.  Today, we say farewell and thank you to a President with whom we have worked these past eight years to pass and enact the Affordable Care Act.  More than 20 million more people in America have the safety and security of health coverage. In every community, we are taking care of patients who previously were shut out of our health care system, people with preexisting conditions who have been liberated to pursue their dreams, people who are alive today because of the work we have done together.

Today, more than 90 percent of Americans are covered, and we have moved closer to a day when health care is truly a right in America.

At 12:01pm Eastern Time, we will have a new President.  Even as some people celebrate the possibility of a better future today, many others are worried about losing health care, lowering our national standards for civility and respect, and seeing our nation become more fractured as communities turn against one another.

As enormous as this change in national leadership is, we cannot ever look to one person to define all of us.  That shortchanges the power and potential that each of us has to shape our collective identity and realities.  

Today, I offer you three reasons for hope.

One reason is the very profession of doctoring.  At the heart of medicine is a fundamental belief in our responsibility to take care of one another.  We devote our hearts and minds each day toward screening, diagnosing, treating, counseling, and, yes, loving our patients.  We strive to treat them with the utmost care because each person matters no matter what our age, race, gender, profession, abilities or disabilities, income, or viewpoints.

A second reason to hope is the ideals of our democracy.  As President Obama said in his farewell address, the most important office in the country is that of citizen. Our democracy is messy, and the collective decisions we make may not be what exactly we individually want.  But if we choose to, we each have the power and right to help steer us all.

And a third reason lies in what we have seen these past few weeks and indeed these past eight years: the incredible power that Doctors for America members have when we roll up our sleeves to do the work of our democracy.  We are not content to let others speak for us. Instead we are finding our own voices.

Today and each day that follows, I encourage you reflect on how you will use your power to protect our patients and create a better future for everyone.  I ask you to consider how we can build our collective power to ensure that our ideal of a caring and compassionate America is reflected in our health care system and our society.

To help, we have put together an ACA toolkit on how you can take action to protect the gains of the Affordable Care Act. Take a look, grab a friend or five, and choose to act.  Program the phone numbers for your Senators and Representatives into your phone. Write an op-ed. March tomorrow for our patients and our country.

Reach out to the Doctors for America community for strength. We are launching a Facebook group today where we can share our stories, actions, resources, and inspiration with one another.   

Taking action is taking a stand for the kind of future we want. It is doing the hard work of making our democracy work for everyone even in the most challenging of times.

While the future remains unwritten, my faith in our collective ability to do good remains unwavering. Thank you for all you have done and for all you will do in the days and years to come.

With love and hope,

on behalf of Doctors for America leadership

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