This is the #Texas healthcare story we need.” – Maninder Kahlon, vice dean, University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School
Kahlon’s tweet was one of many sent in response to our story last week about two East Texas doctors who grew so frustrated by Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid that they opened their own safety-net clinic. Patients, many of them low-income, have been streaming in, illustrating the dire need for care in a state that has the nation’s highest rate of uninsured residents.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn circulated the story, co-published with the Texas Tribune. So did David Lakey, vice chancellor for health affairs for the UT System and a former Texas health commissioner; the Texas Medical Association, and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians.
One of the most gratifying responses came from someone named Tricia – professional affiliation unknown – who wrote, “I read the article, and I work in this field. I don’t see any propaganda in it; it all rings true to me.”
That was our goal. Writers Kim Krisberg and David Leffler, guided by editor Susan White, simply but forcefully told the story of physicians Doug Curran and Ted Mettetal, two old friends who – at what many would consider retirement age – decided to open the East Texas Community Clinic in 2020. Mindful of an old journalism cliché – “show, don’t tell” – Krisberg and Leffler spent many hours with the doctors and the clinic’s CEO over the past 13 months, absorbing details they used in their story.
The result was a masterful profile of men who were, as the writers put it, trying to close “at least a sliver of the health care gap themselves.” Show, don’t tell.
I was pleased that NPR’s “Shots” blog decided to republish Public Health Watch columnist Lisa Doggett’s piece on the mental-health effects of climate change. Seventeen-year-old Giselle Perez, who belongs to a group called Schools for Climate Action, saw the piece and sought Doggett’s counsel as she and about 80 other students prepared to go to Capitol Hill to advocate for a resolution acknowledging the “mental health impacts of recurrent climate-related disasters on youth.” The resolution was written by high school students from a community ravaged by wildfire.
The lesson: When our work gets out there, people of all stripes respond to it. We’re grateful to partners like the Tribune and NPR, which help make it happen.