I am a mother of 3 and a pediatrician. I practiced, mostly in Maryland, for about 15 years. I left practice in 2007 to advocate full-time for a single payer health insurance, starting at the state level (I wrote the state health bill, “The Maryland Health Security Act”) and then at the national level as Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program in 2009-2010. During the national health reform process, I saw clearly the corporate influence over the legislation. The current federal health law was written by and for the corporations that profit from our current health system. In addition to the traditional approaches of organizing Congressional Briefings, lobbying and testifying, I had my first experience with nonviolent civil resistance when single payer advocates were shut out of the committees. You can see video about this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKP05AyfRsI and read my OpEd about it here: http://pnhp.org/blog/2009/05/08/why-we-risked-arrest-for-single-payer-health-care/. I organized protests and was arrested three times during the health reform process trying to push for reform that was in the interests of patients and health professionals.
After the national reform was signed into law, I traveled the country working with activists on next steps in organizing for single payer/improved Medicare for All. I traveled with the Mad as Hell Doctors too (http://madashelldoctors.com/videos/the-2009-mahd-road-tour-an-overview/). When people asked how we will eventually wing single payer, I answered that we will see single payer when we win the broader struggle for social, economic and environmental justice. Over that period of travel, it became clearer to me that all who advocate for justice will need to work together in order to have enough strength to make progress. And to be honest, giving people access to health care without addressing the social determinants of health will fail to improve our overall health. One of the greatest drivers of poor health is wealth inequality.
In December, 2010, I had the opportunity to model what I had been saying. I stood with hundreds of others in front of the White House protesting war and 132 of us were arrested (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h275SnEMzmU). I was very impressed by the groups that organized that action, so I started meeting with them. We were all tired of symbolic actions and wanted to work towards more strategic and effective actions.
One of our next projects was a protest against Bank of America in New York City on Tax Day. We joined with 17 different groups to organize this protest and we focused on “people over profits.” Here is a video from that: http://youtu.be/LJmktBgvpB8. As part of that action, my partner, Kevin Zeese, and I launched ItsOurEconomy.us to educate and mobilize people to democratize the economy. This type of economy, also called a solidarity economy, gives people greater control over and benefit from the economy and reduces the wealth divide.
Around that same time, we had traveled to Madison, WI to be part of the occupation of the state capital. And we were very inspired by the Arab Spring. We decided that we would organize an occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC starting October 6, 2011. We launched our website, October2011.org, in June and worked full time on that project. We never dreamed there would be a whole Occupy Movement by the time we began our occupation.
We saw the occupation as a first step in building an independent, nonviolent broad-based social, economic and environmental justice movement to transform this country, end corporate rule and shift power to the people. We believe that nonviolence is essential. when we saw the police repression of the Occupy Movement, our colleague created the Veterans Peace Team. I am pleased to be an associate member of the Veterans Peace Team. Our mission is to , “nonviolently confront, document, and thereby expose the inherent or actual violence of those institutions that would use violence to impose their will on others.” VPT is deeply committed to nonviolence and to standing between those who are peacefully working for a just and sustainable world and law enforcement who are ordered to act aggressively upon them.
I also believe that telling the truth is imperative in this age of propaganda. I am co-host of a radio show, “Clearing the FOG: Speaking truth to expose the Forces of Greed:” http://www.mixcloud.com/ClearingtheFOG/ which airs on WeAct Radio. I serve on the board of Healthcare-Now.org and am involved in the “Health care is a Human Right” campaign in Maryland (mdsinglepayer.org). And I am one of the 50 doctors who filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the individual mandate which forces people to purchase private insurance is unconstitutional (http://www.singlepayeraction.org/blog/?p=3333).
I have been interviewed by Bill Moyers and other TV and radio hosts and am published in blogs such as TruthOut.org.
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