Retired doctor reflects on his 90 years in new book

By Ross Forman
Windy City Times (Chicago), June 3, 2014

Quentin Young offers his take on a variety of topics, including people, politics and policies, in his new book: "Everybody In, Nobody Out: Memoirs of a Rebel Without a Pause."

Young certainly speaks from experience. He celebrated his 90th birthday last September.

Born and raised in Chicago, and still calling the Hyde Park area home, Young is now in California, opting out of the Chicago cold and snow.

"I've lived a long life, so there's a lot to tell. I like the book; it really tells the story of [my] 90 years," Young said.

The book was published in late 2013.

Written in collaboration with Steve Fiffer, Young's memoir offers a rare glimpse inside the mind of a fearless advocate for a single-payer health system, following his path through the civil-rights movement on through his stint as the head of Cook County Hospital.

Young retired in 1985.

"We're in deep trouble in terms of health care, at least that's my point of view," said Young, who spent about 18 months writing the book that travels his 90 years. "I think the book does a pretty decent job of tracing the fight for national health insurance. We're a country of 50 states, and there's a different story in every state.

"The thing I like the most about the book is, the success of the senior component, Medicare. It's been a dramatic economic change [over the years]."

In fact, Young added, "We've had a century of progress, and I've seen so many changes," in the medical world.

The medical world of 2014 is seemingly at a paradox, trying to figure out what's the best plan, he said. "Every polls seems to show that American people want to be covered against health-care costs. No one wants to go bankrupt because of a major illness," he said.

Young attended Northwestern University Medical School in the 1940s and interned at Cook County Hospital, where he also did his residency. He was a founder and served as national chairman of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, which was formed in 1964 to provide medical care for civil rights workers, community activists, and summer volunteers working in Mississippi.

He also was noted for providing emergency medical care to protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

He retired from private practice in 2008.

Then, in 2009, Young was appointed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to Chair the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board.

Young said he still remains active in medical world, particularly on the economics of health care.

So where do you see health care in the future?

"It's a question of whether we will have a single-payer system, or we'll have a chopped up system with all different kinds of various benefits, depending on where you work, or whether you work, and how old you are. People don't like that uncertainty.

"I'm hopeful, before I leave this world, that I'll see national health insurance."

Young tagged it as a 50-50 odds that a national health insurance program will materialize.

"I think the next five years will tell the story," he said.

When asked about the early days of the HIV era, of about 33 years ago, Young said, "That's a very delicate subject; it was a very important time. In the ... early 1980s, that was a time when so many people would get [diagnosed] and then die within three or four years, or sooner. It was a horrible death. Eventually, people were able to live with HIV, if they took the proper medication."

Young treated HIV/AIDS patients, and prominently promoted prevention, most notably through safe sex.