Four decades ago, Paul Gordon, M.D, professor and former chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Arizona, first contemplated a cross-country bike tour. He put the dream aside until about a year ago when he began to seriously consider how to link it to a sabbatical leave.
He and a University of Arizona medical student, Laurel Gray, decided to embark on a “listening tour” from Washington D.C. to Seattle talking on the way to Americans in rural areas about the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA).
Much of what they heard was unsettling, but Gordon believes their journey gives them an opportunity to help educate the public. He and Gray will describe their experiences at 4:30 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 10) in the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room.
“My plan was to arrive in a small town, find a small cafe that I expect many rural towns still have, walk in , introduce myself to whoever is sitting there, ask if they would be willing to talk with me” Gordon said.
He said Americans raged at the government, the healthcare system, and at fellow citizens who “abused” the system. The resentment and apparent lack of empathy disturbed Gordon initially. There was “not a lot of generosity of spirit” from people who otherwise seemed friendly and helpful.
As they travelled, his disappointment turned to resolve and he perceived an opportunity. He felt he could do something about the anger he was hearing. “I saw that this could make me a better teacher, a better clinician, a better human being” he said.
They covered 3,353 miles in 65 days of riding through the northern United States. They interviewed over 100 people to gain insight into the feelings of rural Americans about the ACA. They developed a blog www.bikelisteningtour.wordpress.com.
Written by Neil Kochenour, Academy Village Volunteer