Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dr. David Lowther's Letter to our Senators

September 8, 2009

Dear Mr. Chambliss and Isakson,

I am writing in hopes that you would have time to meet on my next visit to DC later this week. I am a cancer doctor in the Atlanta area. At the onset of the latest health care debate, I was suspect of the effort having witnessed something similar firsthand in 1994 while a medical school student at Georgetown. As more information seeped from this bill (HR 3200) through the press, I was increasingly concerned by the transformative nature of the legislation being proposed by the Democratic congress. But it was the reactions of my patients that served as the primary impetus to throw a Town Hall in mid-July, an impromptu effort designed to give them an outlet to express their concerns with one another. Despite it's last minute organization, it managed to bring out over 300 concerned citizens on a weekday night with little notice. What was planned as a roundtable discussion among patients in a 50-seat auditorium turned into a full-fledged rally against this bill. Soon after, Town Halls broke out across America and the media was only too happy to portray these magnificent people as somehow un-American. The demand for more opportunities to discuss this bill led me to throw 2 additional Town Halls at a movie theater in my practice area (Lake Oconee) with crowds of over 500 showing for each. I also teamed up with Dr. Brain Hill, a colleague and friend, who managed to make himself famous for challenging Cong. David Scott at a Town Hall in Douglasville only weeks after my first one. What is most fantastic about the responses of the public at each of our events is the newfound interest that many of the retired folks have in the political process and their political fate.

I do think we will prevail in this fight. I see September and October as the months that will determine largely whether this is the banner to an Obama legacy or truly the Waterloo that Jim DeMint had forecast. Should the coolest heads prevail, I think we might be able to address the dire need to create a solution to our escalating societal medical care costs. It's never a wise thing, however, to create transformative policy when the electorate is so polarized. There isn't the urgency to act as there might be at a moment when a country declares war in self-defense, for instance. This is a long-standing problem that requires deliberation and clearly, for public buy-in, requires not just party cooperation, but more importantly, a trans-generational cooperative effort to accomplish such a substantive change. There are so few issues in front of the public at any given time upon which 20-somethings and 70-somethings can agree. But, there is no more important issue that requires this dialogue. Someone of good character and well-meaning intention needs to begin to set the tone. We need a figurehead in Congress with a steady mind and a steady hand and someone that the public finds trustworthy.

What my partner Brian Hill and I firmly oppose is any entity, regardless of political stripe, to overtake the argument and direct the exchange. What we have been able to demonstrate in our circles of influence in the Atlanta market is that by taking a stand for the patient, as we do every day at work, we are able to garner attention from both political parties and simultaneously motivate individuals towards activism. My Town Halls at one point all serve as a means of educating the patients on how to contact their Congressperson by phone and email. They stress a grassroots revival as a means of both disseminating information and countering the network firmly established by the opposition forces. We both believe that what is ultimately most imperative is the need to position the patient at the top of the reform-effort pyramid. To that end, who better to speak on the patient's behalf than those most likely to be affected by any government-mandated intrusiveness that accompanies reformation of the delivery system: their doctors. And so, we began our joint effort, Just2Docs, a name meant to reflect that impartiality towards the political entities and the simplicity in our design centered around patient interests and evidence-based reforms.

Of course our hope is that this debate will move towards a deliberate and well-vetted effort by both parties. While it is true that some needy citizens require greater inclusion in its benefits, our health care system is the world's best and need not be radically disrupted to accomplish this task. Yet I agree that as a country with a solid ethical foundation at its roots, we need to be inclusive of those who need better access - of this certainly no one can argue. I am of the belief that each of us has a kernel of morality that is able to withstand the transient shifts in political ideology that naturally accompany human progress through time. Were we to tap into that while simultaneously applying the unique brand of American industriousness that has elevated mankind since our country's inception, I believe we could all settle on the desirable outcome of concomitantly maintaining our superior standing while reaching even the most destitute of our fellow neighbors.

So, Saxby and Johnny, if I may ask: I would like to propose that we (collectively) consider the ‘face’ of the counterproposal that we offer to Congress as we advance this debate beyond the initial legislative offering. The public at my Town Halls (sans politicians) has responded very favorably to the physician-directed debate. It would appear to both Dr. Brian Hill and I that this is the most effective way to deliver an alternative to those open to one. The public, as you know, is skeptical of the tactics of either political party right now yet finds their doctors trustworthy 2:1 over their public officials. While we can only begin to scratch the surface of information at the fingertips of a large research think tank, what we CAN offer is the inherent ability to advance the correct reform measures that address our patients' needs first and have valid precedent. My patients are pleading that I continue to be involved and I suspect they are no different than any other doctor’s patients. So I would like you to know that you have 2 very willing servants in this cause down here in your home state of GA. I would welcome the call to help you in any way.

Please let me know if you would have any time whatsoever to meet on Thurs 9/10 as I will be in DC to attend the events that weekend.


David Lowther, MD

President - Southeastern Radiotherapy Specialists

Atlanta, GA

Cell (706) 474-8170

Co-Founder – Just2Docs

1 comment:

  1. I have a health care plan, it is called the free market.
    Thanks, Bert Lofman, MD


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