School of Medicine holds rally, vigil in support of Medicare

By Amanda Kaufman
The Daily Free Press (Boston), Oct. 2, 2015

Joining 30 other universities around the nation, the Boston University School of Medicine hosted a Medicare-for-All National Day of Action rally Thursday to advocate for single-payer health care reform. BU was the only university in Massachusetts to participate.

Organizers and attendees of the rally used the hashtag #TenOne, representing Oct. 1, on social media to spread the word about the cause and connect with the other universities.

BUSM students, professors and policymakers gathered on BU’s Medical Campus to discuss the current inadequacies of the United States’ health coverage system and to raise support for Medicare reform.

The rally ended with a candlelight vigil to honor the lives lost due to the lack of affordable healthcare. The rally’s attendees held candles and colorful posters decorated with phrases such as “Help heal American healthcare!” and “Patients over Profits,” while also participating in a thirty-three second moment of silence to honor the thirty-three million Americans that remain uninsured.

Students for a National Health Program, the student branch of Physicians for a National Health Program, organized the rally.

Clara Zhu, one of the event’s chief organizers and a second-year BUSM student, said when organizing the event, the group wanted to focus on bringing together a variety of people to discuss the lack of healthcare in American and how it has affected patients.

“We have attending physicians, residents, lawmakers, people who specialize in policy and, of course, medical students, and the idea there is that when you have a problem that is so large, that’s so entrenched in our culture, it’s important to be able to have allies from different fields to be able to approach that problem,” she said.

Zhu said America’s hesitance toward single-payer health care in comparison to several other established nations around the world is astonishing.

“Every other major industrialized nation has government-supported healthcare and manages to insure its citizens,” she said. “The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world and somehow still a massive portion of our citizens are uninsured or underinsured.”

Jawad Husain, a third-year BUSM student, said the rally was partly inspired by last year’s White Coat Die-Ins movement, which highlighted police brutality in America.

Over 60 BUSM students participated in White Coat Die-Ins last December in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The rally was mirrored at 75 other medical schools across the nation, he said.

“[Medicare-for-All] was inspired by what we saw as a big increase in medical student organizing after the Black Lives Matter movement,” Husain said. “We were really inspired by the mobilizing of social media and coordinating a day of action across multiple schools, so that’s how this event came to be.”

Janine Petito, a third-year BU medical student, said there’s a large amount of support among students to start working on real healthcare reform. She said as medical students, they realize they have a lot of privilege and access to a patient population that the rest of the world does not have.

“There’s enough stress that comes along with any illness, whether it’s a broken foot or terminal cancer, and the fact that you could be financially ruined by a diagnosis that’s completely out of your control is outrageous,” Petito said.

First-year BU medical student Alex Iwamoto said the current healthcare system is a mess that has to undergo a lot of change.

“It’s going to be really hard through a lot of incremental change to get to something like single-payer healthcare, I don’t know exactly what it’s going to take,” he said. “Our current system costs a lot of money yet is wildly inefficient.”