equal rights

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Five Lessons For Health Care From The Civil Rights Movement

Dr. Paula Johnson — Chief of the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Executive Director for the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology — spoke today of the need for a new grassroots movement — a civil-rights-like activist uprising — to promote equal, high-quality health care for all. Her remarks were part of an event honoring the noted psychiatrist, activist, author, consultant, and Harvard professor, Dr. Alvin Pouissant, who provided medical care to civil rights protestors and worked towards desegregating medical facilities in the Deep South in the 1960’s.

Dr. Johnson (who, full disclosure, has treated a close member of my family) is herself a pioneer, serving as the first African American chief medical resident in the history of the Brigham, and a physician on the forefront of women’s health and cardiology.

Here she describes what health care can learn from civil rights:

What I would like to do now is to share 5 lessons from the Civil Rights Movement that I believe can apply to health.

The first lesson is that:
Change takes time and we must take every opportunity to accelerate change.
It took from 1870 to 1965 for blacks to gain the true right to vote! But there were clear moments in time when change was accelerated, as with the marches in Selma. Today, in Health, we need to accelerate change.

This leads us to the second lesson:
It is a compelling Vision and inspiring leadership that motivate and sustain us as we work toward our goals.
Today, we need a grander, a more ambitious vision for health. And we need leaders willing to step up and help us realize this vision.

The third lesson is:
True change rarely comes from the halls of Congress alone—laws are essential but insufficient to make true change. Continue reading