Illinois health professions students rally for 'Medicare for all'

By Anne Scheetz, M.D.
Illinois Single-Payer Coalition, Oct. 2, 2015

Health professions students from five Illinois universities rallied in Chicago and Rockford on October 1 as part of a Medicare for All National Student Day of Action, also called TenOne Day of Action.

Students for a National Health Program (SNaHP), the student arm of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), organized the Chicago actions in coalition with the American Medical Student Associaiton, the Latino Medical Stuent Association (LMSA), Pre-Health Dreamers, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), and WhiteCoats4BlackLives. 

LMSA, led by medical student Franklyn Rocha Cabrero, organized the candlelight vigil at University of Illinois in Rockford; a PNHP representative joined in the vigil. Report here.

Representative Mary Flowers, chief sponsor of the Illinois Universal Health Care Act, spoke at both Chicago events, thanking the participants and urging health professionals in training to continue the fight for single-payer.

Scott Goldberg, fourth-year medical student and a member of the PNHP Board of Directors, opened a noon rally on the University of Chicago (U of C) campus by giving the history of TenOne; his complete speech is here.

ICU nurse John Hieronymous spoke of the painful dilemmas faced by nurses who are committed to being advocates for their patients, but who, because of insurance barriers, cannot provide the care their patients need.

Mark Chee, U of C first-year medical student, speaking for UAEM, an international organization,  addressed the outrageous prices of prescription drugs; his speech is here.

U of C psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Yohanna spoke of the administrative burdens placed on clinicians by the current health care system, and of the benefits a single-payer system would bring to businesses. His speech is here.

Dr. Nahiris Bahamon, whose speech is here, spoke about children forced into Medicaid managed care.

Dr. Philip Verhoef, Co-president for Northern Illinois of PNHP Illinois and President of the Board of ISPC, challenged the students to take the lead as activists for health system reform; speech here.

Dr. Mari Egan spoke of her immigrant patients who are excluded from obtaining health insurance under the ACA.

Other speakers at this rally: Dr. Vijay Gorrepati, resident in psychiatry; Linda Liu, seond-year medical student; and Dr. Monica Vela, Associate Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Cultural Affairs

Other PNHP, ISPC, and NNU members, as well as representatives of community groups incluing Independent Movement of Paratransit Riders for Unity, Vehicles, Equality (IMPRUVE), Northside Action for Justice, and the Alliance for Community Services, participated in the rally.

That evening in Chicago, students from Midwest University, Rush Medical College, U of C, and University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) marched from a nearby park to the office of health insurance giant Humana, where they held a candlelight vigil.

U of C second-year medical student Shirlene Obuobi spoke about the moral underpinnings of health care and of health care professions; her speech is here.

Other speakers included medical student Taka Yamaguchi, Co-president of the UIC SNaHP chapter; Rush nursing student and leader of the Rush SNaHP chapter Jordan Centers; and some who had spoken at the noon rally. Students from Rush's Physician Assistant program were also represented at the rally, as was ISPC.

Following the rally, the students, whose message and white coats elicited many positive responses from passers-by, marched to Michigan Avenue carrying lit candles. 

Jordan Centers wrote this article in anticipation of the day's actions, and Scott Golberg was interviewed by OpEd News.

The Hyde Park Herald published a photograph of Representative Flowers speaking at U of C in front of students and doctors in its October 7 print edition. The caption reads as follows:" State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31) speaks about legislation she has sponsored to mandate healthcare for all during a health care protest, Oct. 1, at the University of Chicago Medical School. Many U. of C. medical students want the U.S. to adopt a National Health Care system that would provide U.S. government funding for health care for all Americans. Owen W. Lawson III"

More information from SNaHP is available on the PNHP website here.