Tag Archives: medicine

Happy Birthday, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

26 Nov

On this date in 1832 a true American hero and pioneer was born. Mary Edwards Walker was born in the town of Oswego, NY, the youngest of five daughters in a farming family. While working on the farm, she refused to wear women’s clothes, finding them too cumbersome and restrictive, beginning a lifelong spirit of dress reform. She attended a local school then became a teacher until she had earned enough money to go to medical school. The only woman in her class, she graduated as a medical doctor in 1855–TSM readers might remember me celebrating Elizabeth Blackwell, the very first female doctor.

Her initial medical practice was not successful, as women doctors were looked upon with suspicion and distrust–a consequence of confronting a dominant discourse. She left upstate New York for Iowa in 1860 and briefly returned to school; this ended abruptly when the college suspended her for refusing to quit the debate team, which was historically all male–I guess only men know how to debate (?)

Soon after this the U.S. Civil War began and Walker volunteered for the medical corps. She was only offered employment as a nurse but often worked unpaid as a field surgeon at the front lines. Finally, in 1863, she became the first woman employed by the U.S. Army as a surgeon. In April 1864 she stayed behind after a battle to help a Confederate doctor perform an amputation; captured by the Confederate army (how’s that for gratitude?), she was held as a prisoner of war for four months, after which she returned to her duties.

When the war was over, Walker was recommended for the Medal of Honor by General William Tecumseh Sherman. President Johnson signed the bill approving the award. Walker is one of only eight civilians and the only woman ever to receive this honor.

Building on this accolade — and sadly acknowledging that outside of the battlefield she was unlikely to succeed in medical practice — she became renowned as a lecturer. She spoke and wrote frequently on health care. A staunch abolitionist before the war, she also spoke on civil rights, expanding into suffrage and other early feminist issues. She was also a dress reform pioneer, finding men’s clothing more comfortable and convenient. She was arrested a number of times for “impersonating a man” solely because of her attire.

Sadly, as with many of her peers, she died before suffrage passed in the U.S., on February 21, 1919. She had a simple funeral but was honored with the military tradition of a flag-draped casket. She was also buried in her favorite man’s dress suit. Dr. Walker has been honored with many posthumous accolades, including the use of her name for medical facilities. The Whitman-Walker clinic in Washington, DC is named for her and for fellow civil war medic,  and one of my personal heroes, Walt Whitman, who served as a nurse.

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Bigot of the Week Award: October 12, Rep. Scott DesJarlais

12 Oct

Bigot of the Week

Even in the great gathering of hypocrites that lurk in the BWA, this week’s winner is a titan. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R – TN) has managed to abuse his power on every level while demonstrating an amazing “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. DesJarlais is a licensed physician and a “family values” tea partier; he’s dedicated to oppressing gays and women and radically opposed to freedom of choice. He certainly plays the prefect stereotypical white hetero privileged male Republican. How does he live up to those “principles”?

It turns out that he practices family values by cheating on his wife (repeatedly). That includes one mistress who was one of his patients! So much for medical ethics… When this woman became pregnant during one of their dalliances (perhaps they got over-excited reading Ayn Rand?), how did DesJarlais respond? According to excerpts from phone conversations provided to the Huffington Post, he puts his convenience above his principles.

  1. If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let’s do it.
  2. We’ve got to do something soon. And you’ve even got to admit that because the clock is ticking right?
  3. You told me you’d have an abortion, and now we’re getting too far along without one!
  4. Well, I didn’t want to be in your life either, but you lied to me about something that caused us to be in this situation, and that’s not my fault, that’s yours.

My he is charm free! What a despicable creature. It looks like he will face a disciplinary hearing regarding his medical license. Sadly, his bright red district will likely reward his misdeeds with re-election.

Thanks go to my friend Jennifer Carey for this week’s dishonorable mention. David Siegel, the owner of Westgate Resorts, sent a surprising email to his employees Monday. It said that if President Barack Obama wins re-election and raises Siegel’s taxes, he will have to lay off workers and downsize his company — or even shut it down. Siegel used similar intimidation tactics in 2008. When confronted this week, he responded:

I wanted to inform my employees of what their future would hold if they make the wrong decision. I wasn’t threatening any of the employees.

No, just promising that their jobs were at stake while violating federal laws regarding voter intimidation. Abuse of power seems to be the theme of the week.

Jan Brewer v. Roe v. Wade

16 Apr

Is there anyone whose rights I still need to trample?

Sadly, we have another Stepford wife perpetuating the war on women.  Our Jan Brewer(R. Arizona) who suffers from internalized misogyny, has signed a bill that in many ways challenges Roe v. Wade and sends the message that women are not able to govern their own bodies.   The absurd law states that:

…gestational age as beginning on the first day of a woman’s last period, rather than at fertilization. In practice, that means the state has banned abortions after about 18 weeks.

The absurdly named Women’s Health and Safety Act moves the cutoff threshold for abortions so early that it prevents most medical testing that would inform a woman about the health and viability of a fetus. This is bad enough, but the bill also effectively ends another common, medically sound practice.

Medication abortions, which are nonsurgical and usually performed within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, and account for between 17 and 20 percent of all abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-rights advocacy group. While women often take the pills at clinics and in their homes, the bill now mandates that a medical provider must have hospital privileges within 30 miles of where the procedure takes place. Many times clinics or homes are not within 30 miles of hospitals, and the distance prevents providers from other cities or even states from caring for women, says Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute. Another factor that could contribute to what Nash called a “shutdown” of medication abortions is that the law requires abortion pills to be administered using outdated protocols, confusing providers and obscuring proper use of the drugs.

This bill continues the alarming trend of right-wing legislatures (Arizona’s is one of the most draconian) and tea-soaked governors doing everything they can to thwart the established law of the land regarding abortions. Since taking office, Jan Brewer has proved hostile to every vulnerable population she comes across. How sad that this latest action provides more cover for the Republican obfuscationsists to say “how can it be a war on women when a woman supported it?” Bigots and villains have no better allies than the self-loathing, and Jan Brewer clearly loathes everyone.  We tried to reach Gov. Brewer for comment, but she was busy directing her minions to build a wall around Arizona to keep out Latinos.

Why Americans Can’t Afford Health Care: A Must Read

14 Apr

What happened to the Hippocratic Oath?

Yes, another article about health care.  I need to thank TSM follower Jen Rhee for inspiring me to compose this article and for collecting data for the lovely graphs. While you take the time to really examine the graphs you will notice where we fail miserably as Americans. Please keep in mind issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, power, and privilege!  The many intersections of oppression continue to be insurmountable barriers to getting health care.  Again, the Affordable Care Act is a very small but very significant move in the right direction. Currently, everyone in Congress has no worries about health care coverage.

Action Steps: All of us need to take action here and to elect public officials, servants that agree that being a human being merits health care coverage!  Please, I strongly encourage you to take a close look at these graphs!

Decoding Your Medical Bills
Created by: Medical Billing and Coding Certification

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