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“We took an oath to do no harm”: Medical students show support for Affordable Care Act

Dozens of white coats were carefully laid out to cover the steps of a Stanford Medicine building yesterday afternoon as part of the #ProtectOurPatients campaign, a grassroots movement seeking to defend the Affordable Care Act.

"We are covering our medical center with our coats to symbolically represent the need for coverage for our patients," called out Stanford medical student Julie Barzilay. As one of organizers of the event, she helped lay out the coats -- which were temporarily donated by students -- before addressing the crowd of about 100 medical students and several faculty members.

"This doesn’t just affect coverage, it affects people in our community," said Alvaro Amorin, a medical student standing by Barzilay, whose mother and sister in nearby San Mateo depend on the ACA for coverage. "I don’t think this is America. We have better morals. We have better values."

Carrying hand-written protests signs that said "#DoNoHarm," and "White coats for coverage" the crowd gathered up and down the stairs of the Li Ka Shing Learning & Knowledge Center. They cheered for each medical student as they voiced their concerns about Congress’ move to repeal the ACA and declared the need for protecting human rights and the rights of medical care for United States citizens.

"Today we stand in solidarity with over 500 medical students from across the country at more than 45 medical schools, pledging to do no harm..." said medical student Rosa Yu. "Our vision is a system where all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care. As it stands, 32 million (one in 10) Americans will lose coverage and, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, 43,000 people are estimated to die per year if the ACA is repealed without replacement. We cannot stand idly by. We took an oath to do no harm.”

The demonstration was organized by four first-year students who posted the event on a Stanford Medicine Facebook page urging students to come out — and bring their white coats along with them. Medical students from around the country held their own demonstrations and shared photos throughout the day Monday on Facebook and Instagram.

Among those in the crowd at the Stanford event was second-year medical student Jon Sole, who said that medical coverage shouldn’t be a political issue: "Politics shouldn’t be a part of it. The fact that politics can harm people this way is wrong. Often times [change] comes at the cost of those most vulnerable."

Daniel Bernstein, MD, professor of pediatrics, was also in attendance and said he came in support of the medical students. But he was clearly thinking of patients, too, telling me, "There’s been some debate whether this is a political issue or a moral issue. For me, it’s a moral issue."

Previously: Stanford Health Policy symposium to address future of health care in U.S. and abroad and Abraham Verghese on health law battle: We've worried so much about the process and not the patient
Photo by Alyssa Tamboura

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