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September 10, 2008



. . . is not in this issue. (Sneaky headline, we know.)  However, yesterday we did meet a woman who delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention, so you can understand our confusion. National Hispanic Medical Association president Elena Rios was the only RNC speaker to address healthcare. We dropped by her K street office for the details. Namely, is CNN's Anderson Cooper as debonair in person?


Because of Hurricane Gustav, Elena didn't know until the day of her speech whether she'd even be speaking. Her 400-word address honed in on minority healthcare disparities such as higher rates of diabetes and lack of immunizations. She tells us she wrote the speech herself (with some minor edits) and even received some training from RNC speech coaches. Before the week was over, she also managed a little star-gazing. At one party, she spotted House Minority Leader John Boehner, and at the DNC in Denver (where she also spoke, but for a smaller side-event), she met actors Wilmer Valderrama and Eva Longoria. You can see the speech here.


Whether it's Obama or McCain in '08, NHMA's focus will be increasing the number of Hispanic doctors in federal government as well as hospital boards, including meeting tomorrow to educate members on the intricacies of the federal nominating process. (Has pin-the-tail on the Cabinet member fallen out of favor?) The Hispanic doctor talent pool has only now flourished because most med schools barely accepted Hispanic students until the late '70's—including Elena's own application at Stanford. In fact, the only US medical school with a Hispanic dean is in Puerto Rico. By 2042, one out of three Americans will be Hispanic, so Elena says hospital leadership has a long way to go before it looks like the community it serves.


Elena re-enacts a recent NHMA-organized Congressional briefing. The briefing worked because support for health disparities bills from Ted Kennedy's and Jesse Jackson Jr.'s reached their strongest point in six years. Still nowhere near unanimous though. NHMA's genesis is fascinating in its simplicity. In '93 the AMA came out against Bill Clinton's healthcare plan, and Clinton wanted a strong response from other organizations. Elena, a member of Clinton's Healthcare Reform Task Force (probably good she left that detail out of her convention speech), assured the President a Hispanic health organization would be by his side. So she created one on the spot. Fourteen years later, she's still in charge and a bit spontaneous. She's just back from a pleasure trip to Tuscany.


Medical writer Curtis Raye also recently spoke at a convention with
many local docs. But don't  worry, he won't tell your patients you
speak Klingon. Send story ideas to curtis@bisnow.com

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