BY JOE DORMAN
Sometimes in life, the actions we take and the relationships we form have consequences that only reveal themselves years later. I was reminded of this recently when I crossed paths with an individual I first met almost 15 years ago.
When I was campaigning for my first election as a state representative in 2002, I was active in reaching out to students and asking them to get involved in the political process. Even if they couldn’t vote, these young men and women could knock doors, canvas neighborhoods and make a real impact on the election. My campaign benefitted from the work and energy of a small group of very dedicated student-activists, and they benefitted from making a meaningful connection with the political process. Their drive and passion for their community inspired me, and I like to believe my campaign inspired them as well.
I stayed in touch with this group through their high school and college days. When it came time for one of them to further his education and pursue his dream of attending medical school, I was honored that he asked me to write his letter of recommendation. Legislators are often asked to do this, but it is special when you know the person and can speak firsthand about his work ethic and qualifications. I not only wrote the letter, but also made calls on his behalf to assure those receiving the letter that I truly did know this person and encouraged them to give him a chance.
Fortunately, he was accepted to the OSU Center for Health Sciences and successfully completed his studies. He took part in the school’s excellent programs supporting rural health care, eventually moving to Lawton to practice medicine. While I was proud to see him succeed, I lost touch with him until this past weekend.
On Friday, I received a call that a family member of mine was suffering a medical emergency. I met that family member at the Comanche County Memorial Hospital and we were directed to the emergency room to get immediate assistance. As we were waiting, I recognized a familiar face tending to patients: the student who had worked on my campaign and who I had wrote the letter of recommendation for. It was immensely reassuring knowing this young doctor was on duty and responsible for my family member. I knew this person would do everything in his power to help not only my family, but also every patient under his care.
Actions have consequences, and I was thankful that I took the time to encourage those high school students back then and to write that letter of recommendation. I am also thankful I voted to increase funding for OSU’s rural residency program that continues to help new doctors like my friend get experience practicing medicine in parts of the state where access to care might otherwise be a serious problem.
The Legislature returns for a special session this week to address a $215 million budget shortfall that largely impacts health care programs, including the programs that train young doctors. Oklahoma’s children will certainly be directly impacted by the success or failure of this special session and the ability of our lawmakers to find new revenue. The agencies tasked with promoting child welfare, health, and mental health and substance abuse services could all face significant cuts if our lawmakers are unable to act on important revenue raising measures, including a $1.50 per pack tax increase on cigarettes.
Actions have consequences; it’s time for our lawmakers to act!
– Former state Rep. Joe Dorman is chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy