A pair of cycling doctors wheeled through the Twin Ports last week seeking input on the nation’s health care policies.
It was the second “listening tour” for Dr. Paul Gordon, a family physician and professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Gordon was joined by his wife, Eve Shapiro, and medical student Julia Liatti. It included seven weeks and roughly 1,800 miles of bicycling from Pennsylvania to North Dakota (1,300 for Liatti, who joined in Detroit, Michigan).
Stops along the way have included Port Wing, Iron River and Duluth, where they crossed paths with Inge Maskun, manager of Indian Point Campground. Gordon said he was impressed with her optimism.
“I had a wonderful time talking to her,” he said in a phone interview Friday, June 26 near Lake Winnibegoshish, Minnesota. “She had some wonderful metaphors about health care. She saw it as a human right.”
The Duluth woman, who moved to the United States from Indonesia in 2002, said health care needs to be accessible to all; not free, but accessible. To make that happen, Maskun said she foresees a collaborative effort by the government, community members and the pharmaceutical, food and insurance industries. And time.
“We have to be patient,” Maskun said.
In addition to writing blog posts about their interactions along the route, Gordon and Liatti were joined by a documentary film crew for a few days. Maskun, as well as a mechanic in Port Wing, were among the interviewees caught on film by Tuscon-based C’est Tout Films, helmed by documentary filmmaker Christine Ryan Harland.
“Her goal was to give an opportunity for these voices to be heard,” with no intention of politicizing them, Gordon said.
Gordon’s inaugural ride in 2016 focused on the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, leading up to the presidential election. Instead of poll statistics, he aimed at a deeper understanding of how people viewed Obamacare, a qualitative research study. The doctor published a paper on that journey’s findings in journal Academic Medicine in 2017.
This year, Gordon's focus is on policy.
Some themes that came through during this year’s ride included conspiracy theories, a tendency to view the health care system through a personal lens and a sense of broken promises from elected officials, he said.
“I think we found a significant sense of discouragement on behalf of the people who spoke,” Gordon said. “They don’t feel officials are representing them.”
Even though people viewed health care through their own experiences, the doctor said, many appeared to be voting contrary to their best interests.
“Almost everyone was not working with 100% of the facts,” Gordon said.
A family physician for more than 40 years, Gordon said he sees too many people come to him too late.
“I see health care as a right; I see no reason to monetize or to capitalize on peoples’ health and well being,” he said.
But this trip wasn’t about educating; it was about listening.
Maskun said she gave them her point of view in front of the cameras: Health care shouldn’t bankrupt the people who need it. And she said she’s certain that here in the United States, with its wealth of freedom, it can be done.
“I would say if things could be changed, America could do it,” Maskun said.
Visit Gordon's blog at bikelisteningtour.wordpress.com for more information and to follow the cycling journey.