From knee-high pink stockings and spandex to Michael Jackson’s famous white glove, the atmosphere was vibrant and ebullient at the massive downtown Kansas City Convention Center. Add to the mix The Spazmatics, an 80’s cover band, and what you’ve got is one serious tribute to all things 80’s. Welcome to the first day of the 2009 AAFP National Conference for Residents and Students! What could’ve been mistaken as an 80’s convention filled with fanatic Breakfast Club devotees was instead the orientation/registration day to our annual conference. As Los Angeles natives, we, of course, dressed the part, and donned white gloves and sunglasses of our own. The outfit was low-budget, extremely easy to put together, and very well received – a testament to our collective creative stretch unbound by our limited means.
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Wednesdays, nothing real special about the day when you work 80 hours a week as an intern. There is no real beginning nor end to our work, so the notion of a hump day defining a midpoint between weekends seems quaint. After last week, I now look forward to Wednesday for a whole new reason: The Burrito Project.
Los Angeles Burrito Project started when a few friends in the bike community decided to do something to change the world: hand out free burritos to homeless folks in downtown. After toasting tortillas on gas stove, I toss warmed flour shells to my friends. They scoop rice, beans, and salsa to form delicious burritos. These beauties would sell for $5 a pop, neatly wrapped in aluminum foil rolls. We layer them into our bike messenger bags by the dozens alongside water bottles.
Four teams of riders head out to distribute water and burritos. “Buurrrrritos! Aaaaguaa! Waaateer!” our calls echo in the glowing night vacant roads. From tents, plastic lined cardboard boxes, lifting baseball hats off eyes, hundreds emerge hungry, thirsty. “Oh its Wednesday again?” people ask unwrapping dinner. The Burrito Project hasn’t missed a Wednesday night distribution since January 2006.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Town Hall Meeting – Congressman Adam Schiff
Given our commitment to vulnerable and underserved populations, it was no surprise to see Harbor Family Med residents and faculty making public our mandate for health reform. A seething, volatile crowd of thousands listened intently to the panel where Rep. Adam Schiff and others discussed options for reworking our broken health care system. Rowdy opponents of reform were met and even superseded by health care reform advocates, as we joined those supporting reform.
When we walked toward the crowd in our white coats, heads snapped around to watch us approach. We were greeted by people we didn’t know, over and over again: “We’re so glad you are here,” and “thank you for coming.” Interviewers with entourages turned their news cameras on us, asking what was important about health reform and how we would respond to the accusations of socialism perpetrated by those fearful of change. One woman touched my sleeve and said, “Doctor, what’s the right answer?”
People often don’t trust politicians. Who do they trust?
They trust their doctors.
This moment in history is our time, our opportunity and our responsibility to use the unique power of our perspective and education on behalf of our patients.
See you at the next Town Hall Meeting.
Dawn Mautner, MD
Harbor-UCLA Family Medicine