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Health Blogs | Mental Health, Depression and Stress

Guest Post, Neil Shulman MD: Advocacy for Low Income, Predominantly Black Workers at Emory University

October 23rd, 2013 by Doug Bremner

ADVOCACY FOR LOW INCOME PREDOMINANTLY POOR BLACK INDIVIDUALS WORKING ON EMORYS CAMPUS AND AT EMORY HOSPITALS, ETC.

THERE ARE MANY NICE, WELL-MEANING WORKERS ON EMORYS CAMPUS AND AT EMORY HOSPITALS WHO SUFFER BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO CLEAN THE BUILDINGS, WORK IN SOME OF THE CAFETERIAS, WORK FOR THE VALET SERVICE, ETC; .MANY BLACK EMORY UNDERGRADS, BLACK EMORY PUBLIC HEALTH STUDENTS, AND BLACK ALUMNI AGREE WITH ME. VIA THEIR ORGANIZATIONS, THEY WOULD LIKE TO ADVOCATE AS WELL. EVEN MANY WHITES, HISPANICS, ETC., AGREE WITH THIS ASSESSMENT.


I had the opportunity to recently speak in Clarkston, Georgia and to visit the Emory valet worker who is suffering with liver disease and has no medical insurance. We also met with his wife. My wife and I volunteered a lot of time and donated money to help another young black employee who was only 23 years old and was dying while working in a cafeteria on Emorys campus BECAUSE SHE HAD NO ACCESS TO CURABLE TREATMENT FOR HER CANCER. (She had been discharged from Emory University Hospital because she didnt have insurance.) After I went through the bureaucracy at the Emory Cancer Center, met with doctors, and connected with a high level Emory executive, I was able to get her again into Emory Hospital where her life was saved. Sadly, there are many stories of employees who have not fared so well, thus suffering or dying when excellent health care is just around the corner.

There are certain high level folks in the Emory system who are 100% against Emory spending money to ensure that the lowest paid workers have access to life-saving healthcare. When I came to Emory in 1967, the people who earned the lowest wages working on Emory property had full time jobs year round and they all had the same access to healthcare that all other Emory employees did. Back then there was not such a wide gap between the highest paid employees at Emory (a non-profit organization) and the lowest paid people working at Emory.

Neil Shulman

Neil Shulman, MD


OVER THE YEARS, THERE HAS BEEN A DRAMATIC CHANGE. Today, the lowest paid get $7 per hour without health insurance compared to the highest paid who receive over $700 per hour with health insurance..the highest paid employees receive over 100 times the income of the lowest paid workers. During the summer months, many of these lowest paid employees do not even have a job or their job is reduced to shifts of 4 hours (some have to spend two hours by bus coming to work and two hours returning home). Of course, many professors get the summer off while still getting their salary. THIS ECONOMIC DISPARITY IS NOT JUST AT EMORY BUT AT MANY OTHER INSTITUTIONS AS WELL.

You can have rich people and poor people, but I think it is VERY SAD when low income people suffer for a long time and then die from curable diseases merely because they do not have access to health care. In the USA, we have one of the highest death rates in the developing world among young low-income people. IT IS VERY COMPLICATED TO ATTEMPT TO GET THE VARIOUS INTEREST GROUPS TO JOIN TOGETHER AND SOLVE THIS PROBLEM IN THE USA. Making lots of money is a high priority for many people despite the fact that they cannot take it with them when they die. They go to churches and pray
so that they will go on to Heaven however I feel that the BEST PRAYERS ARE ACTS OF KINDNESS.


I am involved with a wonderful organization WWW.CIRCLESUSA.ORG which connects middle class and low income folks in the USA so that the middle class families can help the low income families come out of poverty. I co-authored a book THE CORPORATE KID about a low- income kid who turns around a rich greedy CEO. The book has endorsements by Congressman John Lewis and Martin Luther Kings sister-in-law, Naomi King. The book was published because a wealthy CEO from the Books-A-Million family liked the message that rich CEOs can learn from low-income ethical kids. I would love for all the profits of a movie spin-off to generate funds to help low-income youth in our country. Emory has the opportunity to LEAD THE NATION in becoming an institution where we all join together as a team and make sure that low paid folks have the basics.

LETS GET THE HIGHEST PAID EMPLOYEES AT EMORY TO SPEND A COUPLE HOURS EACH MONTH WITH THE LOWEST PAID PEOPLE WHO WORK ON EMORYS CAMPUS. LETS SHOW HOW A CARING COMMUNITY CAN JOIN TOGETHER AND HELP EACH OTHER SO LOW INCOME WORKING FOLKS AT EMORY CAN BE TREATED FOR CURABLE DISEASES. I PROMISE YOU THAT BEING AN ACTIVE PART OF A COMMUNITY WHICH HAS THIS AS ITS PRIORITY WILL BE MUCH MORE SATISFYING THAN HIGH LEVEL EMPLOYEES GETTING PAY RAISES, THAN ACDEMICS GETTING AWARDS, THAN BUILDINGS BEING NAMED AFTER PHILANTHROPISTS, AND THAN RESEARCHERS GETTING ACCOLADES.

Lets make this an URGENT PRIORITY AT EMORY, not an issue which is drawn out and delegated to a committee which meets infrequently and requires years of planning in order to accomplish any goals. There needs to be at least ONE PERSON OUT OF THE 10,000S OF EMPLOYEES WHOSE PAID FULL-TIME JOB IS TO MAKE SURE THAT POOR PEOPLE WORKING ON EMORY PROPERTY DONT DIE OR SUFFER BECAUSE OF LACK OF ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE. EMORY PROVIDES WONDERFUL HIGH QUALITY CARE TO RICH FOLKS FROM AROUND THE WORLD AND TO THOSE WHO ARE INSURED…AND EVEN TO SOME WHO ARE NOT INSURED. HOWEVER, WE ALL NEED TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE ON THIS ISSUE.

Many members of the Emory community could appreciate leadership expediting a solution to this problem. Emory could be a humanitarian role model for other educational institutions in the U.S.A. I AM SURE THAT THE DALI LAMA WOULD BE PROUD OF EMORY FOR MAKING THIS ISSUE A TOP PRIORITY.

Neil Shulman MD
Associate Professor
Dept of Medicine

 
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