by Dr. Linda Hodes Villamar
Walking through the rainy streets of Washington D.C. en masse, with men, women and children from all over the US side by side chanting “We are the 99%,” was truly inspirational. I had the opportunity to join the national Take Back The Capitol movement along with thousands of other people, union and non-union, from all walks of life, ethnic backgrounds and even political affiliations this past December. The main goal was to have a visible, peaceful presence in Washington D.C. to influence our lawmakers to create meaningful legislation that would create jobs, secure better health care for all and benefit the 99% of Americans and not just the richest 1%. What I witnessed was exactly that and so much more.
The People’s Camp served as the main meeting place for all the people who were staying at various locations throughout Washington, D.C. Everyone had a job to do and everybody seemed more than happy to be there as a part of this movement. As an immigrant to this country, naturalized as a citizen in 2004, standing in the rain in the middle of the Washington Mall, surveying the scene of tents and people organizing in muddy shoes and makeshift raingear made of trash bags, I too was honored to be there.
I was there along with a pediatric resident representing CIR and New Mexico. I cannot be sure if we were the only doctors there but everyone we met seemed thrilled to have us join the movement.
While a lot of people may feel that most doctors fall within the richest 1%, I contest that we are and should consider ourselves to be part of the 99%. Regardless of salaries, we should consider it our duty to advocate for the 99%. Particularly as emergency medicine doctors, we serve the 99%. We serve the 67-year-old female who day after day goes to work as a maid at the casino, ignoring the chest pains she feels because she cannot afford health insurance and has no primary care doctor. She just works through the pain until one day she faints at work and gets transported by ambulance to our ER Resuscitation Bay. It is a trip which may save her life; it is also a trip which will surely cost her the house and savings for which she has been working so hard. We serve her and the many people who depend on Medicaid, Medicare, those with and without insurance who deserve decent jobs, health care, and legislators who will represent them.
Admittedly, marching in the rain on the streets of Washington, D.C. is not for everybody. Fortunately, there are many ways for physicians to get involved and advocate for our patients, in and out of the hospitals and clinics. Consider writing op-ed pieces for your local paper, sending a message to your State Senators and Congress people, even simply listening to your patients and encouraging them to get involved as well.
Regardless of your political affiliation or views on the state of the economy, health care, etc., becoming informed on the latest policy developments and getting involved in actively advocating for the best interests of our patients is our duty. It is as much a part of our oath as physicians and healers as First Do No Harm.
On that gray and rainy day marching on K street, with drops dripping from my jacket and muddy water seeping through to my socks, it was clear. We are the 99%.
Dr. Linda Hodes Villamar is a PGY 2 in Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico.