Black American Doctor Fights for Patients from the Operating Room to Capitol Hill
By Marilyn M. Singleton, M.D., J.D.
I was born to be a physician. My grandfather was one of two black students in the 1911 graduating class of Starling Ohio Medical College. He dedicated his life to medicine and helping the low-income folks of Lima, Ohio. My father became an Army Air Force flight surgeon at Tuskegee. As a general practitioner in San Diego, he charged patients what they could afford. Many times we were paid in tamales.
Then came Medicaid. It prohibited doctors from being able to use charity like this. We had high hopes when The Great Society was born: the end of poverty, the end of racial strife. These poverty programs were good intentions gone awry. What social engineer devised a diabolical program forcing a mother in hardship to eject her children’s father from the house in order to get financial assistance? The road to hell began with this kind of “social justice.” Common sense tells me that families in trouble would derive strength from staying together.
The results of the disintegration of the family are fully evident. Unwed motherhood has almost tripled since the 1960s War on Poverty. Seventy-two per cent of Black and fifty-three per cent of Hispanic children are now born to single mothers. Single motherhood quadruples the chance of living in poverty.
Things have gotten worse, not better. Politicians are so arrogant they tell people to “Trust me!” based on faith, not facts. Are we to believe that it works to treat people like helpless victims? The fact is the poverty rate has not changed in 40 years. Are we to believe that a check from a distant rich Uncle (Sam) can erase core problems such as distrust of authority figures, poor education, promiscuity, drug addiction, and violence? The facts show no.
Are we to believe that the federal government is effective at public education? The facts show that the high school dropout rate has remained the same for 40 years, despite the fact that trillions of federal dollars were poured into education. We must support alternatives that offer parental options for educational opportunity. A good education leads to self-reliance and social responsibility. This in turn leads to a good job.
Are we to believe that Medicaid “leveled the playing field” for patients? The fact is that fewer and fewer physicians can take Medicaid due to payments below the cost of providing the services. Where is the “social justice” in a health care system where NO one has quality, individualized care?
We have to change Washington’s way of thinking from “if a social program fails, expand it” to “if it fails, dismantle it.” Today’s policies lead to unhealthy dependence on the federal government. We need instead to encourage independence and freedom. Everyone – at all income levels – suffer from these government-controlled programs because we have more fatherless and poorly-educated children.
Safety nets don’t cure poverty. Education and jobs cure poverty. Family and community are the institutions through which we should help each other. Voting for government bureaucracy is not a surrogate for personally giving our time. Community aid is not only direct, more efficient, and more effective, it is personal. Our personal relationships are crucial to maintaining our civil society.
We can’t let politicians use our differences as a wedge to divide. The rhetoric of class warfare fosters resentment and envy. Class warfare does not sow the seeds of success. Our free enterprise system and the free market of ideas have brought more prosperity and a higher standard of living to the greatest number of people, regardless of race or color.
A free market built on integrity should be protected. We cannot let it be destroyed by excessive entanglement of government with business and crony capitalism. We can use existing laws to weed out bad apples. We do not need suffocating regulations and government control for all.
Finally, we must protect one of the most intimate and life-sustaining bonds in our society: the patient-doctor relationship. Patients entrust their secrets to doctors. How comfortable does it make you feel to know that the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology is watching…or using your personal medical records against you?
Touching lives one at a time is why I became a doctor. Fighting for what’s best for patients is what I do as a physician. These days, physicians must also fight in the political realm so that people can take back control of their own lives.
Marilyn M. Singleton, MD, JD is a board-certified anesthesiologist and Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) member. She is currently running for Congress to fight for the 700,000 people in California’s 13th District to have control of their own lives. Despite being told, “they don’t take Negroes at Stanford”, she graduated from Stanford and earned her MD at UCSF Medical School. Dr. Singleton completed 2 years of Surgery residency at UCSF, then her Anesthesia residency at Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital. She was an instructor, then Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at ;Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland before returning to California for private practice. While still working in the operating room, she attended UC Berkeley Law School, focusing on constitutional law and administrative law. She interned at the National Health Law Project and practiced insurance and health law. She teaches classes in the recognition of elder abuse and constitutional law for non-lawyers. Dr. Singleton recently returned from El Salvador where she conducted make-shift medical clinics in two rural villages. Her latest presentation to physicians was at the AAPS annual meeting about challenging the political elite.