The following is a selection of initial obituaries and stories about Dr. Quentin D. Young, prominent leader of PNHP for nearly three decades, who died on March 7. The stories below are from The New York Times, NBC News, The Associated Press, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and other local, national, and international news outlets.
Dr. Quentin D. Young, Public Health and Civil Rights Advocate, Dies at 92
By Sam Roberts
The New York Times, March 17, 2016
Dr. Quentin D. Young, a tenacious advocate for public health care and social justice, and a personal physician to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama when he lived in Chicago, died on March 7 in Berkeley, Calif. He was 92.
His death, at his daughter Polly Young’s home, was announced by Margie Schaps, the executive director of the Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, which Dr. Young founded in 1981 in Chicago, where he lived and worked until two years ago.
Dr. Young campaigned tirelessly for a single-payer universal health care system, insisting that it was no less feasible than Medicare, the national health insurance program for people older than 65, and no more radical than Social Security was when it was first proposed in the 1930s. A single-payer system, he said, would eliminate the need for private health insurance companies, which “are in the business of finding reasons not to give care.”
“It’s true that over the years, I’ve aligned myself with unpopular causes,” he told The Chicago Tribune in 2001. “But over time, they’ve become the majority opinions.” Among those supporting a single-payer system is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
Dr. Young was consulted in the planning stage of President Bill Clinton’s failed health care initiative, which he called “a magnificent exercise in pseudo-openness.” He first met Mr. Obama in 1995 when he was running for the State Senate and became his personal physician and an ally on health care policy. But Mr. Obama did not pursue a single-payer formula as president.
Ralph Nader, a friend of Dr. Young’s and a fellow consumer advocate, called Dr. Young “a physician for all seasons — for his patients, for public health facilities, for workplace safety and for full Medicare for all people with free choice of doctors and hospitals.”
Dr. Young’s social justice conscience was forged early in life — on visits to his grandparents in poverty-stricken rural North Carolina while growing up during the Depression, through membership in the Young Communist League USA, and as a young physician treated women who had had botched illegal abortions.
In the 1960s, he campaigned to desegregate Chicago’s hospitals. In 1966, he treated Dr. King after he was hit by a rock thrown by white demonstrators during a march protesting segregated housing in Chicago.
Dr. Young was a founder of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, which sent doctors to treat civil rights workers in the South, members of the Black Panther Party and protesters battered at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, including the Chicago Seven, who were charged by the government with inciting to riot. (Summoned before a House Un-American Activities Committee investigation into the protests, he refused to say whether he was a member of the Communist Party.)
In the 1970s, Dr. Young was fired as the chairman of the department of medicine at Cook County Hospital for supporting doctors who demanded bargaining rights and better patient care. He successfully sued to be reinstated. In 1983, Mayor Harold Washington named him president of the city’s Board of Health.
Quentin David Young was born on the South Side of Chicago on Sept. 5, 1923, to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe: Abraham Young, who sold real estate, and the former Sarah Wolf.
He briefly considered becoming a rabbi and later an actor after landing the part of Punjab on the “Little Orphan Annie” radio series. (He attended acting class with two future patients, the singer Mel Tormé and the author Studs Terkel.)
Dr. Young attended the University of Chicago, left to serve in the Army from 1943 to 1945, and graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1948.
His wife, the former Ruth Johnson Weaver, died in 2007. Besides his daughter Polly, he is survived by four other children, Nancy, Barbara, Ethan and Michael Young, all from an earlier marriage; a stepdaughter, Karin Weaver; a stepson, William Weaver; nine grandchildren; and five step-grandchildren.
While maintaining a private practice in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Dr. Young was national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program, president of the American Public Health Association and a medical commentator on Chicago Public Radio.
In a 1994 interview with Christian Century magazine, he recalled that the young doctors with whom he trained typically viewed their poor patients in one of two ways. “About half the doctors felt that they were witnessing divine justice, a heavenly — or Darwinian — retribution for evil ways, for excesses in drugs, in booze and everything else,” he said.
“The other half,” he continued, “decided that here was the congealed oppression of our society — people whose skin color, economic position, place of birth, family size, you name it, operated to give them a very short stick,” and “you had to address issues of justice, not just medical treatment.”
“It seemed to me the first approach is judgmental and harsh and simplistic,” Dr. Young said. “Taking the alternative view gave me a shot at being a part of the human race.”
Quentin Young, Crusading Progressive Doctor Who Cared for MLK, Dies
By Jon Schuppe
NBC News, March 8, 2016
Quentin Young, a Chicago physician renowned for his passionate advocacy for equality in health care — and whose patients included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Studs Terkel, and former mayor Harold Washington — has died.
The retired 92-year-old internist for many years ran a private practice in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, where a young Barack Obama was a patient in the 1990s. The doctor and future president became close, a relationship that evolved into discussions about health care policy, and a shared interest in reform.
Young’s push for a single-payer national health system led him to the nonprofit Physicians for a National Health Program, where he served as national coordinator. A spokesman for the organization confirmed that Young’s Monday death, saying the news had been relayed by his daughter in Berkeley, California, with whom he had been living for the past few years.
“Dr. Young was known for his sharp, clear-eyed analysis of social and economic problems, particularly in health care, his deep commitment to social justice and racial equality, his quick wit, his insuppressible optimism, and his ability to inspire those around him to join him in the battle for a more equitable and caring world,” the group’s president, Robert Zarr, said in a statement.
Zarr shared as an epitaph a quote from Young’s 2013 autobiography, “Everybody In, Nobody Out: Memoirs of a Rebel Without a Pause.” In it, Young wrote: “From my adolescent years to the present, I’ve never wavered in my belief in humanity’s ability — and our collective responsibility — to bring about a more just and equitable social order.”
His death was first reported by DNAinfo Chicago.
Young became a doctor in the early 1950s, and came of age as an activist during the civil rights era, campaigning for more equitable access to medical treatment. He was considered the moral voice of public health in his hometown of Chicago, appearing often on local radio.
He said he grew up in a community of progressives, absorbing leftist politics that drew him to work with civil rights groups. Young marched with and cared for King when he was in town, worked at local Black Panther health clinics and was a founder of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, a group of doctors who gave medical support to demonstrators during the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi.
While running his private practice, Young also worked at the Cook County Hospital, where he rose to chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine.
In 2008, Young retired. Even after giving up his medical practice, he vowed to keep fighting what he called the “corporate takeover” of American medicine.
Dr. Quentin Young, longtime health advocate, dies at 92
By Carla K. Johnson
The Associated Press, March 8, 2016
CHICAGO (AP) — Dr. Quentin Young, a longtime health advocate who served as a personal physician to Martin Luther King during the civil rights leader’s stay in Chicago, died Monday at age 92.
Young died of natural causes at the home of his daughter Polly Young in Berkeley, California, she said Tuesday.
A former president of Physicians for a National Health Program, Young pushed for decades to promote single-payer national health insurance. Before that, the Chicago native worked to desegregate Chicago hospitals in the 1950s and marched with civil rights workers in the 1960s.
Civil rights leaders Fannie Lou Hamer and Stokely Carmichael stayed at the family’s Chicago home, his daughter recalled.
“There were always meetings and lively discussions,” she said. “That was an indelible experience of my childhood. We did put in our time at picket lines and at meetings.”
Visiting his mother’s family in rural North Carolina during his childhood helped shape his devotion to social justice work, Polly Young said.
“He remembered as a little child seeing the homes of sharecroppers at the height of the Depression,” she said. “They were living in complete squalor in an apartheid system. He did mention being very appalled by that as a little child.”
Margie Schaps shared an office with Young at the Chicago-based Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, an organization Young founded and where he worked until 2014.
“There was never a rally too small, never an injustice that didn’t deserve him speaking out on it,” Schaps said. “I sat side by side with him for 20 years. We planned and plotted and organized and strategized every day.”
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle called him “a relentless advocate of fairness and justice for all citizens,” noting he was a past chairman of the department of internal medicine at Cook County Hospital.
Young also was a past president of the American Public Health Association.
“His life’s work was transformative, meaningful and contributed to a healthier world for us all,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Young founded the Medical Committee for Human Rights, a group of health professionals who provided medical care during the civil rights and anti-war protests of the 1960s.
He served as personal physician to Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and author Studs Terkel and also was former Gov. Pat Quinn’s doctor, becoming his adviser and friend.
In August 2001, the two men embarked on a 167-mile walk across Illinois to promote universal health care. Quinn recalled a determined Young, who was in his late 70s at the time.
“He wanted decent health care for everyone, that’s how he spent his whole life,” Quinn said. “He had a great ability to connect to everyone.”
The relationship raised questions at times when Quinn, who maintained a tight circle of advisers, appointed him to state posts. Young withdrew as chairman from the state’s health facilities planning board, after a conflict of interest was discovered. Young had minority interest in a doctor’s office that owned property being leased to a health care system.
Young told AP in a 2013 interview that his political involvement was motivated by a sense of justice, and he admired Quinn.
“I’m not political in the orthodox sense,” Young said at the time. “I believe in fair play.”
Associated Press writers Sophia Tareen and Lindsey Tanner contributed to this report.
Dr. Quentin D. Young, ‘tiger for social justice,’ dies at 92
By Maureen O’Donnell and Mitch Dudek
Chicago Sun-Times, March 8, 2016
Dr. Quentin Young provided medical care to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mayor Harold Washington, the Beatles, Studs Terkel and Mike Royko. He ran a practice in Hyde Park, and his clinic’s patients included Barack Obama.
But rather than the who’s who of his clients, admirers are remembering him for the what’s what. During a 60-year career, Dr. Young was a fierce advocate for quality health care for all and for the construction of Stroger Hospital.
He died Monday at his daughter’s home in Berkeley, California. Dr. Young was 92.
“The Cook County family has lost a giant in public health,” said Dr. Claudia Fegan, executive medical director of the Cook County Health & Hospitals System.
“Dr. Young was a radical, a rebel, a tiger for social justice,” health consultant Michael Gelder said.
In 2008, when he declared Quentin Young Day in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn said his health adviser “stood up for patients everywhere, advocating for what he believed to be right – even when it meant risk to his personal safety or his livelihood. . . . Time has consistently shown Quentin Young to be on the right side of history, and his advocacy has bettered his community and the health care industry as a whole.”
The Hyde Park resident — who could safely be called an old lefty — frequently clashed with officials who brought him in to run things because of his expertise and reputation, only to discover he was hard to muzzle and control. He was steadfastly against U.S. participation in the Vietnam War, and pro-labor and civil rights. One of Dr. Young’s favorite sayings was, “Everybody In, Nobody Out,” which became the title of his autobiography.
In the 1950s, he worked to desegregate Chicago hospitals. In the early 1960s, he helped start the Medical Committee for Human Rights, an arm of the civil rights movement. He marched in Selma and tended the injuries and illnesses that befell Freedom Riders in the South.
Later, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee because the Medical Committee for Human Rights was viewed as a Communist-friendly group, said Margie Schaps, executive director of the Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, which Dr. Young chaired.
In 1966, when King was struck in the head by a projectile while marching through jeering white protesters in Marquette Park, it was Dr. Young who patched him up.
And when police batons battered protesters during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Dr. Young dressed the wounds. “To see such a disintegration of norms was very hard,” he once said in an interview. During the Chicago Seven trial, he treated ‘Yippee’ Abbie Hoffman.
He chaired Cook County Hospital in the 1970s. His support of activist doctors who lobbied for unionization and improved patient care led to conflicts, Schaps said: “Quentin was proud of this — he was fired three times, but he always got his job back.”
In the early 1980s, he helped found the Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, which studies the impact of social factors on health, including education, income and environmental toxins.
During Washington’s administration, the mayor tapped Dr. Young to head the city Board of Health.
And “Beginning in the late 1980s, he was perhaps the nation’s most eloquent and high-profile spokesperson for single-payer national health insurance,” according to a statement from the group Physicians for a National Health Program.
His advocacy for a single-payer system left him at odds with Obama on how the Affordable Care Act turned out.
In 2001, at 78, Dr. Young trekked 167 miles across Illinois with Quinn — his patient — to promote health care initiatives.
He walked with a bounce, and people gravitated toward him because of his erudition, Gelder said. The physician could quote from the Greek classics and George Bernard Shaw.
Dr. Young loved talking with King so much that he tried to stretch their encounters. When King had a cold, “I took a 15-minute house call and made it a three-hour afternoon with the master,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.
His mother and father were Eastern European immigrants. They met in North Carolina, where her family had a general store. “They were the only Jews for miles around,” said his daughter, Polly. Young Quentin’s future activism was stirred by witnessing the hard lives of African-American sharecroppers in North Carolina, she said. Later, his father earned a pharmacy degree from Fordham University. The Youngs settled in Hyde Park and his father sold real estate.
Dr. Young went to Hyde Park High School, the University of Chicago and Northwestern University’s medical school.
He took his children on medical rounds, and to meetings, demonstrations and visits with King.
In the latter part of his career, he had a WBEZ radio show on health and medicine.
In 1960, he and his first wife, Jessie, divorced. He married Ruth Weaver in 1980. She died in 2007. He is survived by two more daughters, Nancy and Barbara; two sons, Ethan and Michael; his stepchildren, Karin and William Weaver; nine grandchildren and two step-great-grandchildren. A Chicago memorial is being planned.
He summarized his philosophy in his autobiography. “From my adolescent years to the present, I’ve never wavered in my belief in humanity’s ability – and our collective responsibility – to bring about a more just and equitable social order. I’ve always believed in humanity’s potential to create a more caring society.”
Dr. Quentin Young was the best of doctors
By Sun-Times Editorial Board
Chicago Sun-Times, March 10, 2016
What always struck us as remarkable about Dr. Quentin Young is that he managed to hold down big, important, establishment jobs.
Dr. Young was a fighter for social justice every day of his life, which can be a terrific way to end up in an unemployment line. He scolded public officials, locally and nationally, who would short-change health care for the poor and powerless. He led the fight, sure to make him enemies, to desegregate Chicago hospitals. Yet he was chairman of Cook County Hospital for many years and once ran the Chicago Board of Health.
Our theory is this: Dr. Young was just too good a doctor and administrator to be exiled for too long. He might get fired — and he was, in fact, dismissed as head of the county hospital three times — but mayors and county board presidents would pick up the phone and bring him back.
The rightness of Dr. Young’s cause was impossible to deny. Anybody could see it. That, too, explained his success. He understood the interplay of social factors, such as poverty and racism, in health care, and he advocated all his life for this larger approach to delivering care.
Dr. Young, who died Monday at age 92, was a rebel because he was the best of doctors.
Dr. Quentin Young, Chicago activist for civil rights and public health, dies at 92
By Marwa Eltagouri
Chicago Tribune, March 8, 2016
Dr. Quentin Young, a champion of civil rights and public health reform who was chairman of medicine at Cook County Hospital during a tumultuous period in the 1970s, died Monday, according to his family.
Young, 92, died of natural causes in the Berkeley, Calif., home of his daughter Polly, where he had been living since July 2014, his son Michael said. He had lived in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood for most of his life.
Young maintained his Hyde Park medical practice into his mid-80s while also keeping busy with any number of causes. He pushed to end discriminatory practices at Chicago-area hospitals in the 1950s, co-founded the Medical Committee for Human Rights in the 1960s, marched for civil rights and against war and spent decades advocating for national health care.
“It’s true that over the years I’ve aligned myself with unpopular causes,” Young told the Tribune in 2001. “But over time they’ve become the majority opinions.”
The son of immigrants, Young grew up on the South Side and graduated from Hyde Park High School. He was active in drama and, in a 1992 Tribune interview, recalled taking the “L” to the North side for classes at the Jack and Jill Players with a Hyde Park classmate, Mel Torme. It was also as a young thespian that he met the writer and actor Studs Terkel, who later became a friend and patient.
Young’s studies at the University of Chicago were interrupted by a hitch in the Army during World War II. After getting his bachelor’s degree from the U. of C. in 1944, he received his medical degree from Northwestern University in 1947.
He began his medical training at Cook County Hospital and remained there until 1952. He then spent many years as a physician at Michael Reese Hospital on Chicago’s South Side before returning to Cook County Hospital, where he became chairman of medicine in 1972. He remained there until 1981, working to improve the county public health system’s economic vitality and its ability to help the poor and downtrodden.
Young was fired from his post at Cook County twice and rehired both times after standoffs with the hospital’s governing body. One major issue was his support of young staff doctors who went on strike for improved conditions.
In addition to his position with the county, Young was president of the Chicago Board of Health and the American Public Health Association, and he co-founded the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group.
Alongside his busy medical career, Young was equally active in agitating for social change. He was among the volunteers in the campaign to register black voters during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer in 1964. He participated in one of the historic 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. As founder and national chairman for the Medical Committee for Human Rights, he led efforts to provide medical care to campaign volunteers, civil rights workers and anti-war protesters.
He remained passionate about medical rights and public health equality throughout his life and was a longtime advocate for a single-payer health care system.
In August 2001, at age 77, he took part in an 167-mile, 15-day walk across Illinois to promote universal health care. Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a patient and close friend, recalled Young’s buoyancy throughout the march and the frequent aphorisms he’d share with those marching alongside him. A favorite: “Everybody in, nobody left out.”
“His wife, Ruth, came with us. We’d all be walking down a two-lane highway with Quentin, and he’d be walking along the center line. And she’d keep saying, ‘Quentin! Get out of the middle of the road!'” Quinn said. “I think that was the only time he was a middle-of-the-roader. He was a progressive — a liberal lion. Never flinched from a battle for his causes.”
In the early 1960s, Young regularly took his five children with him to demonstrations, which often were on behalf of the fight to desegregate public schools.
“Everyone thinks their experiences are normative, but it wasn’t until later that I realized those weren’t,” said Michael Young, who remembered visits to his home by civil rights leaders including Stokely Carmichael.
“My father had a real magnetism,” Michael Young said. “He was able to inspire people to activism in a way that was extraordinary. He was a very positive person and very funny. People sought out his company, and he just had this passionate belief in the causes he embraced.”
Young served as the physician for Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights leader’s many stops in Chicago. In his more than 50 years in private practice, other notable patients included Mayor Harold Washington and columnist Mike Royko.
Young is also survived by another son, Ethan; three daughters, Nancy, Polly and Barbara; two stepchildren, William Weaver and Karen Weaver; and nine grandchildren.
A first marriage ended in divorce. His second wife, Ruth, died in 2007.
Services in Chicago are being planned.
Quentin Young, Chicago doctor and social activist, dies at 92
By staff reports and news services
The Washington Post, March 8, 2016
Quentin Young, a Chicago doctor and social activist who protested against segregated hospitals, was a personal physician to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights figures who came through the Windy City, and was an advocate for promoting decent health care for all, died March 7 at a daughter’s home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 92.
His death was announced by Margie Schaps, who worked with Dr. Young at the Chicago-based Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, an organization Dr. Young founded. No specific cause was disclosed. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle called Dr. Young — a former president of the American Public Health Association and the universal-health-care advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program — “a relentless advocate of fairness and justice for all citizens.”
Quentin David Young was born in Chicago in 1923. His father, a Russian immigrant, operated a construction company, and his mother was from Lithuania.
“My parents were liberal and uncommonly permissive in letting us pursue what we wanted,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Drawn to left-wing political groups, he dropped out of the University of Chicago to enlist in the Army in World War II with the aim of combating fascism.
Following his discharge, he received his medical degree from Northwestern University, then became a trainee on the staff of Cook County Hospital. His experience treating botched back-alley abortions led him to become a vocal advocate for legalizing abortion.
“It’s not a choice of abortion or no abortion, but safe abortion or unsafe abortion,” he told the Sun-Times.
While establishing a medical practice in the Hyde Park neighborhood, he also immersed himself in social activism.
He worked to desegregate Chicago hospitals in the 1950s and marched with civil rights workers in the 1960s. Dr. Young helped lead the Medical Committee for Human Rights, a group of health professionals who provided medical care for civil rights and antiwar demonstrators. He helped treat protesters beaten by police during the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.
That year, he was asked to appear before a subcommittee of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was examining the disruption of the convention. A member of the panel asked if Dr. Young was a communist.
“My answer to the question is that it is an unconstitutional invasion of my rights and under these circumstances I would never answer,” he said. “I chastise the chair for daring to ask me that question.”
After filing suit against the FBI, he discovered that the agency had monitored him for nearly 30 years; he was also the subject of intense scrutiny by the Chicago Police Department’s “red squad.”
In 1972, Dr. Young was named director of medicine at Cook County Hospital, which was in turmoil over labor disputes. Amid a strike by interns and resident doctors in 1975, Dr. Young threw his support to the protesters, and the hospital’s governing board fired him. He sued successfully to regain his position.
According to the Sun-Times, he left in 1980 after accusing the county of “malignant neglect” of the hospital. He later served as personal physician to Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and author Studs Terkel, and was former governor Pat Quinn’s doctor, becoming his adviser and friend. In August 2001, Quinn and Dr. Young embarked on a 167-mile walk across Illinois to promote universal health care.
The relationship raised questions at times when Quinn, who maintained a tight circle of advisers, appointed him to state posts. Dr. Young withdrew as chairman of the state’s health facilities planning board after a conflict of interest was discovered. Dr. Young had minority interest in a doctor’s office that owned property being leased to a health-care system.
He had five children with his first wife; their marriage ended in divorce. His second wife, Ruth, died in 2007. A list of survivors was not immediately available.
Dr. Quentin Young, Doctor to Martin Luther King Jr., Dies at 92
By Sam Cholke
DNAinfo Chicago, March 8, 2016
Dr. Quentin Young, the crusading progressive physician to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., among others, died Monday at his daughter’s house in California.
Young, 93, was a lifelong Hyde Parker and the physician to Obama, former Mayor Harold Washington and to writers like Studs Terkel and Mike Royko.
According to people who had spoken to Young’s family, Young died on Monday at his daughter Polly Young’s house on Monday.
Young was a lifelong advocate for a single-payer health care system and numerous other progressive causes, which he said in 2013 came from his youth growing up in Hyde Park.
“I had the good fortune of being surrounded by progressive people,” Young said in 2013 when his biography was released about being surrounded by communists, progressives and other left-leaning groups in the neighborhood during the Great Depression.
In the past three years, he had started to spend the winters in California to be closer to his children, Nancy, Polly, Ethan, Barbara and Michael Young. But it was only his second time every living outside of the neighborhood.
Young served in the U.S. Army during World War II, but returned to Chicago and graduated from Northwestern University.
He spent nearly 35 years at Cook County Hospital both treating patients and advocating for better health care for African Americans in Chicago.
“The county hospital played a pivotal role in the black community, and they really thought it was theirs – it wasn’t theirs, it belonged to the Democratic Party,” Young said.
He also ran his own practice in Hyde Park, and he treated Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during a march in Chicago.
“I received the honor of looking after King during the march,” Young said. “He took a rock to the head and had to be sewn up.”
His regular patients included Terkel and Royko, who Young said always gave him a hard time.
“He was always very sarcastic with me and never liked my leftist ideas,” Young said of Royko. “Studs would at least listen to me.”
Young spent more than 25 years advocating for a single-payer health care system in the United States, a cause he continued to fight for until his death on Monday.
On Monday, Physicians for a National Health Program released a statement by Dr. Robert Zarr, the organization’s president.
[PNHP note: the story above has been lightly edited for accuracy and clarity.]
Dr. Quentin Young Remembered as a Young Radical Who Never Quit
By Sam Cholke
DNAinfo, March 9, 2016
HYDE PARK — Dr. Quentin Young is being remembered in Chicago’s Hyde Park community after his death on Monday for his devotion to social justice and fearlessness during fights for civil rights around the country.
Young, 92, died at his daughter Polly Young’s house in Berkeley, Calif., on Monday and family said he was engaged in progressive politics until the end.
Polly Young said her father’s life ambition was for a single-payer health care system in the United States and was happy to see the issue being debated again in the Democratic presidential primary.
Young spent more than 25 years advocating for reforms to the nation’s health care system, but he had spent most of his life treating those who were advocating for social justice while marching himself.
Young marched alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., and treated King when he was struck by a stone while marching in Marquette Park in Chicago in 1966. Young treated protesters injured by police during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and was a tireless advocate for more resources during his nearly 35 years at Cook County Hospital.
“I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t active,” Polly Young said Tuesday. Young had moved in withher in 2014, his first time living outside of Hyde Park since World War II.
She said she and her two brothers and two sisters saw all of it first hand.
“He wasn’t necessarily 100 percent doing childcare, his method was to drag his kids along,” said Young, who also is a doctor of internal medicine like her father. “He often dragged us along on hospital rounds, which probably made a big impression on me.”
Quentin Young was one of the first people in Illinois to have joint custody of his children after his divorce in 1958 and on weekends with their father, Young’s children said King, Fannie Lou Hamer and other leaders of the civil rights movement would come to the house and they were expected to keep up in the political discussion.
“There was no filter for the children and we were all engaged in it,” said Michael Young, the youngest son.
Young’s children said there was very little about his life he kept private and they said Young traced his passion for social justice to his youth.
Young grew up on the western edge of Woodlawn in a Jewish part of the neighborhood north of 63rd Street to parents who had emigrated from Eastern Europe and who spoke Yiddish at home.
Polly Young said her father would tell stories about visiting his grandparents in North Carolina, where his grandparents still ran a general store after his parents moved to Chicago.
“He talked about vivid memories of sharecroppers living in squalid huts,” Polly Young said.
She said Young was radicalized in his teens at Hyde Park High School, one of the few integrated schools in Chicago where he first learned about Marxism and civil rights.
Young’s children said his passion for medicine came later in life and he thought briefly about becoming a rabbi after Hebrew school and then an actor when he landed a gig as Punjab on the “Little Orphan Annie” radio series, where Studs Terkel claimed he first met Young.
Polly Young said her father likely pursued medicine at the urging of his pharmacist father. She said he found it to be more than steady, well-paying work, but also an outlet for his desire to get to know people on a personal level and help them.
“He was a people person and his patients revered him and he really enjoyed that,” Polly Young said.
Young’s patients included King and other civil rights activists, and later writers like Terkel and Mike Royko, former Mayor Harold Washington, former Gov. Pat Quinn and President Barack Obama.
But that closeness to powerful politicians also made him a target of their opponents.
Jesse Sinaiko said Young hired him and several of his friends in the early 1970s to keep watch overnight at his office after a break in.
“We had a lot of fun: ordered a pizza, screwed around having chicken fights in wheelchairs and some other stuff,” Sinaiko said.
He said Young initially suspected the break-in was someone looking for drugs, but later told Sinaiko he had come to believe it was a political enemy of his patients.
Young’s children said it was not uncommon for the FBI to show up at the house.
A 1974 lawsuit also revealed that Young had been targeted by the “Red Squad,” a secret unit of the Chicago Police Department that infiltrated and tried to disrupt activist groups in the 1960s and 1970s.
Young’s children said the one thing he was private about was the health of his patients, like Quinn.
“He really was a great doctor, that should not be overlooked,” said Quinn, who started seeing Young in 1985.
Quinn said Young had a great sense of humor and could take a joke and dish it out took — dubbing the former governor “Dairy Quinn” because of his preference for Dairy Queen.
Quinn said Young’s patients loved him and kept in touch after he stopped his primary care practice in the 1980s. He said Obama still asked about Young and asked for his address so he could write Young a letter during a visit to Springfield.
Young’s patients and friends will get one more opportunity to pay their respects.
“There’s going to be a big shindig in Chicago,” Polly Young said.
She said the family is asking people to make donations to Young’s Health and Medicine Policy Research Group and Physicians for a National Health Program in his memory and to advocate for single-payer health care.
Single Payer Advocate Quentin Young Dies at 92
Single Payer Action, March 8, 2016
President Barack Obama was the patient of Dr. Young’s practice partner, Dr. David Scheiner, for twenty years before becoming president.
But both Dr. Young and Dr. Scheiner had a policy falling out with Obama over single payer. In 2007, Dr. Scheiner — also a single payer advocate — was invited — then un-invited to a White House roundtable on health policy issues.
In Young’s autobiography — “Everybody In, Nobody Out: Memoirs of a Rebel Without a Pause” — published in 2013, Young writes that “had I been in Congress, I would have unequivocally voted against Obamacare.”
“It’s a bad bill. Whether it’s worse than what we have now could be argued. We rather think because of its ability to enshrine and solidify the corporate domination of the health system, it’s worse than what we have now. But whether it is somewhat better or a lot worse is immaterial. The health system isn’t working in this country — fiscally, medically, socially, morally.”
Young rejected the idea that President Obama should have compromised on single payer in the face of industry opposition.
“I don’t have any sympathy for the idea that the president had to compromise because his opposition was strong,” Young writes. “Winning is not always winning the election. Winning is making a huge fight and then taking the fight to the people — re-electing people who are supporting your program and defeating those who aren’t.”
Young first met the young Barack Obama in the mid-1990s at social gatherings.
At the time, Obama was lecturing at the University of Chicago Law School and practicing law.
“We did not become bosom buddies after a few of these social gatherings — I just viewed him as a nice, bright guy living in the neighborhood,” Young says.
When Obama ran for the Illinois Senate, Young supported him.
“I was happy with his views on health care,” Young writes. “He recognized that major reform was necessary and indicated support for a single-payer approach. No blushing friend, I took every opportunity to solidify his position. While not an official adviser, I tried to influence him as much as I could. My colleagues and I sent him notes touting the advantages of single-payer and the form it might take and talked with him and his staff about it whenever I had the chance.”
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader said that “Dr. Young was a physician for all seasons — for his patients, for public health facilities, for workplace safety and for full Medicare for all people with free choice of doctors and hospitals.”
“He was Barack Obama’s physician friend and mentor about single-payer health insurance,” Nader said. “Yet years later, President Obama excluded him from the roundtable discussions at the White House which he had with representatives of the insurance, drug and hospital companies. Dr. Young’s compassion and wisdom will be sorely missed.”
Dr. Young was an inspiration to single-payer advocates around the country.
“Quentin was my mentor,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers, currently a single-payer candidate for the U.S. Senate in Maryland. “I admire his commitment to social justice. He set the example of what doctors should be doing — getting out into the streets to support struggles for social justice and using our influence to fight for equal rights, including equal access to high quality health care. He started his career out as a public health officer in West Virginia.”
“To me, he was a superstar. It meant so much to me that he spoke with me the night before our Baucus 8 (the eight single-payer activists who were arrested in 2008 before the first Obamacare hearing before a committee chaired by then Senator Max Baucus) actions and agreed that it was time for such an action. His support gave me the courage to carry through with it.”
“I had the honor of spending time with Quentin in DC, Chicago and Berkeley where he wintered with his daughter. I will always remember how he encouraged me and others to focus on ‘the elegant simplicity of single payer.’ I think it was Quentin who coined the phrase — ‘everybody in, nobody out.’
“Quentin was witty and brilliant and loving. He was energetic and fearless. I am privileged to have crossed paths with him. He touched so many throughout his life. He will be missed.”
He wanted everybody in and nobody out
By Helen Redmond
Socialist Worker, March 21, 2016
Dr. Quentin Young was a health-care reform rock star. He coined the deceptively simple slogan “Everybody in, nobody out” to encapsulate the idea that every human being has the right to guaranteed health care.
That notion has sunk into national consciousness. And it’s a testament to Quentin’s indefatigable efforts and influence that in the current election cycle, the advantages of a national, single-payer health care system is being discussed once again.
We lost Quentin Young on March 7. He was 92.
As a left-wing activist from an early age, Quentin was on the right side of all the struggles for equality, from workers’ rights to the civil rights movement in the 1960s to the fight against the so-called “war on terror.”
Quentin is probably most widely known for his commitment to implement a health care system in the U.S. that put patients first, not the profits of the health care industry. And always and everywhere, Quentin exposed the stark and disgraceful racial disparities in the American health care system.
Quentin was a founding member of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), and it is one of his most enduring legacies. The existence of PNHP is critical to the fight for a single-payer health care system and to keeping alive the idea that health care is a human right. It is truly sick that in the richest country in the world, this idea must continually be asserted. For 22 years, Quentin was PNHP’s national coordinator, and the organization has grown to 20,000 members.
– – –
I heard about Quentin Young long before I met him. I picked up a copy of Hospital: An Oral History of Cook County. In the book, Quentin details the pervasive corruption and patronage at Cook County Hospital, he explains the fierce esprit de corps that existed among County medical staff, and he reveals why patients felt that County was their hospital.
Young was Cook County Hospital’s chair of medicine from 1972 to 1981. Under his leadership, the Occupational Health Service (OHS) and the Jail Health Service (JHS) were established. He writes of the OHS: “Most schools of occupational health essentially trained company doctors; we stressed that this was a worker-orientated occupational health program.”
Quentin was especially proud of the doctors who worked in the JHS, writing, “These doctors stood ready with the Prison Health Project of the ACLU and the Carter administration, and the Justice Department to be expert witnesses on the conditions in numerous jails and prisons in the country where lawsuits were brought.”
County bosses tried to fire Quentin for his outspoken activism, but Quentin wasn’t having it and refused to leave. The door to his office was padlocked. His house staff took the door off the hinges and occupied the space. Attending doctors were ordered not to recognize Quentin as chief, but no one else would take his job. In a show of solidarity, 40 doctors made rounds with him. This was the kind of respect and loyalty that Quentin inspired.
Many years after Quentin worked at County, I took a position as a social worker in the emergency room at the new John Stroger Hospital, the replacement for County, and then in Fantus Clinic. Patients who were overwhelmingly poor, Black or Latino presented in such poor health it was staggering.
How was this possible in a wealthy city like Chicago that had no shortage of medical resources and infrastructure? Quentin explained why in Hospital:
“I used to say there was no room for liberals at County. Only two world philosophies worked with what you saw before you, because the wretched of the earth: alcoholics, drug users, late-stage disease, people with wound infections with maggots in them–I mean really bad. And so you could come up with two conclusions…the one I and many of us embraced–that this was the distilled oppression of society. These were people on the bottom of the economic heap, of racial discrimination, who were born to lose, and their whole life is a testimony to privation, oppression, and what we are seeing is the physical expression of it.”
When I read those words, I understood the social determinants of health on a whole new level and found a further depth of empathy for my patients.
Some days, it felt like the emergency room or the clinic was a war zone, and the unnecessary human suffering, the premature death was too much to bear. I would call Quentin. One time he said to me: “You are seeing the contradictions in their rawest form. The oppression is all around you. Very few situations are like that.” And then he’d get nostalgic and tell me stories about the glory days of County.
– – –
I started writing about health care and interviewed Quentin on many occasions. I got to know him better during the years when the Obama administration developed health care legislation. He spoke at dozens of rallies and meetings.
By a certain point, Quentin wasn’t able to drive anymore–something that really pissed him off–so a group of volunteers drove him to speaking engagements. On the way back after a meeting, we dissected what happened, and I told him he was too soft on people who raised ridiculous arguments against single-payer. He laughed and said people often told him he was too hard on his opponents. But Quentin was the kind of person who listened and took what others thought seriously. He said, “Okay Helen, next time I’ll be harder.”
Quentin refused to support Obamacare despite enormous pressure to do so. The small advances in the law, like regulations against insurances companies pre-existing conditions to reject applicants, paled in comparison to the measures that gave even more power to for-profit health care and capitulated on the vision of “everybody in, nobody out.”
He was accused of being pie-in-the-sky. Liberals who formerly supported single-payer scolded Quentin and said it was never going to happen in America, so just get onboard with the president. Over and over, the hackneyed phrase “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” was hurled at him.
But Quentin said no. In a world where leaders of social justice movements too often buckle under the pressure to accept crappy, piecemeal reforms that help the fewest people, Quentin Young stood apart for refusing to concede.
To be in Quentin’s presence was to be in the presence of greatness. His greatness was the opposite of what is traditionally thought of as greatness–where a person exerts power and control over others and has a gigantic ego. Quentin’s greatness was grounded in his profound humility, his love for humanity and in his lifelong fight for health care justice and equality for all.
Medicare for all really is ‘the only answer’
By the Editorial Board
The Capital Times (Madison, Wis.), March 16, 2016
Dr. Quentin Young, one of the greatest economic and social justice campaigners of the modern era, has died at age 92. Young served as a personal physician for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and organized the Medical Committee for Human Rights, which provided medical support for activists during the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. He helped to shape and advance the call for an understanding of health care not as a commodity but as a human right.
Young was a friend and ally of this newspaper, a source of insight and inspiration for many years, and an ally in our campaigning for universal health care, which dates back to the days when Capital Times founder William T. Evjue was cheering on the efforts of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman to establish a national health care program. Over the years, we celebrated Young’s work and joined him and his dear friends, the late Madison area physicians Gene and Linda Farley, in championing efforts to establish a single-payer “Medicare for all” health care system in the United States.
More than three decades ago, as he was working to forge the Physicians for a National Health Program movement, Young warned of “the corporate takeover of medicine.” As PNHP notes, “he sounded the alarm about the growing encroachment of corporate conglomerates on U.S. health care, noting that giant investor-owned firms were rapidly subordinating the best interests of patients and the medical profession to the maximization of corporate profit.”
To counter the crisis, PNHP said in its statement on the doctor’s death, Young became “the nation’s most eloquent and high-profile spokesperson for single-payer national health insurance, or improved Medicare for all.” He worked closely with an old ally from civil rights movement days, Congressman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., on behalf of H.R. 676, “The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” the single-payer health care proposal backed by dozens of House and Senate members. Young gave credit to the efforts of President Obama — a friend and a patient of the physician’s Chicago clinic — to develop and implement the Affordable Care Act. But while he could identify positive elements of the ACA, Young argued it was an inadequate reform that left too many Americans with no coverage or insufficient coverage and that failed to control costs because it maintained an arrangement where “the insurance companies are still going to make their profits.”
Young, who served as PNHP’s national coordinator for more than two decades, remained an outspoken advocate for single-payer to the end. Making his case for “single-payer national health insurance, government-run, based on the tax system,” Young said in a 2004 interview posted on the organization’s website that “universal health care is no longer the best answer; it’s the only answer. There was a time when there were alternatives that might have worked, but that day is passed. We’ve had too much of a transfer of power from patients and physicians, for that matter, to giant corporate interests that are dedicated to the goal of maximizing profits, which accounts for much of the distress in the American health system.”
During the course of the 2016 presidential race, proposals for single-payer reform have taken hits from the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and a number of the Republicans who are seeking the presidency. Clinton has argued that the plan for single-payer offered by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, her opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, is “an idea that will never, ever come to pass.”
In the Democratic debate on March 10 in Miami, the former secretary of state complained about “Senator Sanders wanting to throw us into a contentious debate over single-payer.” Sanders, who has hailed Young as “a national hero,” replied: “I think if the rest of the world can do it, we can. And by the way, not only are we being ripped off by the drug companies, we are spending far, far more per capita on health care than any other major country on earth. You may not think the American people are prepared to stand up to the insurance companies or the drug companies. I think they are.”
That was the view that Young advanced in his last years, including in his brilliant 2013 autobiography, “Everybody In, Nobody Out: Memoirs of a Rebel Without a Pause.” The doctor wrote: “I’ve never wavered in my belief in humanity’s ability — and our collective responsibility — to bring about a more just and equitable social order. I’ve always believed in humanity’s potential to create a more caring society.”
The Capital Times has embraced that faith since its founding in 1917, but there is no question that our faith was enhanced and extended by our association with Young. We will honor his memory by continuing to be absolute and unequivocal in our championship of the essential understanding that health care must never be undermined by profiteering. It must always be understood as a human right that should be guaranteed for all.
Quentin Young: Doctor and activist
By Anne Gulland
The BMJ, April 27, 2016
Quentin David Young was born and raised in Chicago and was closely associated with Cook County Hospital, the city’s only public hospital. It was during one of the institution’s many crises that Young, an internist by training, was asked to become chief of medicine. Young, who had done hisresidency and internship at the hospital, was a radical with a strong sense of outrage at social injustice and he was appointed in the hope that he would be able to attract like-minded physicians.
Cook County Hospital
The hospital was falling apart—both physically and metaphorically. Because of its reputation it struggled to attract staff so Young set about recruiting a cohort of young, socially committed doctors.
Chief of medicine was a tough job: the hospital was constantly in the headlines and its patients were poor and sick. Young, whose managementstyle was inclusive rather than authoritarian, encouraged dialogue with his staff, which meant that he was often in demand and long days were normal.
A 1979 BBC documentary, I Call It Murder, caught County in all its chaotic glory. It began with an interview with a young doctor who described it as the hospital all the private hospitals “dumped on”—sending it patients who couldn’t pay or were drunk.
Young was fired twice during his tenure as chief of medicine because of his support of, but not participation in, a strike by the hospital’s house staff. Firing someone with such a strong sense of workers’ rights was a foolish decision—Young argued that he was dismissed without due process and was reinstated both times.
After the strikes he set up a committee to save the hospital, which culminated in its being completely rebuilt in 2002, with its future secured. By this time Young had long since left but he had been instrumental in the eventualsuccess. He left County in 1981 and in 1983 was appointed president of health.
Young’s work at the hospital was not all controversy—he set up an occupational health department in partnership with the University of Illinois as he believed it was important that occupational medicine be taken out of the hands of employers. And he restricted the prescription of tranquillisers and sedatives in the outpatient clinic by insisting that prescriptions be countersigned by senior doctors.
Young was born to Jewish parents, Abe and Sarah, who had fled Europe. His father trained as a pharmacist but eventually made money through real estate. It was during visits to see his maternal grandparents in North Carolina that the seeds of Young’s political activism were sewn. In the racially segregated south, Young would see black women and children toiling in the tobacco fields for white landowners. He wrote, “I was too young to have a political orientation, but I could sense that their worth to their farmer-bosses depended on how much they could pick.”1
His interest in politics continued throughout school and university, where he joined the American Student Union. In 1940 he enrolled at the University of Chicago but enlisted in the army in 1943 at the age of 19, with dreams of fighting the Nazis. Much to his disappointment he remained in the US, continuing his medical training with the army, first at Cornell University and then at Northwestern University.
While in the army, Young married his childhood sweetheart, Jessie, with whom he had five children. They divorced after 15 years, and he became the first father in the state of Illinois to secure joint custody of his children. He remarried again in 1980 to Ruth Weaver, who predeceased him by nine years.
After serving his residency and internship at County he set up private practice in Hyde Park, on Chicago’s south side, with attending privileges at Michael Reese Hospital. He continued private practice throughout hislife, even while chair of medicine at County, retiring at the age of 86. He was popular among his patients, who did not mind his late running clinics as they knew he liked to take his time with them.
At the beginning of his career Young helped found the Committee to End Discrimination in Chicago’s Medical Institutions. Segregation of hospitals was not an official policy, and it was only when the committee obtained figures showing that most births and deaths among the black population happened in the poorer hospitals that Chicago city council ruled that it was unlawful to deny treatment to a patient because of race. Two years later the city ruled that it was unlawful to racially discriminate against staff.
Young even managed to overturn an unofficial colour bar in his own chapter of the American Medical Association. He was invited to run for secretary, on the grounds that the chapter hierarchy did not want a black person gaining the position. Secretary was a stepping stone to chair, and Young knew that he would be able to nominate his successor. He duly nominated a black colleague, Clyde Phillips.
Young was also involved in the wider civil rights movement through the Medical Committee for Human Rights, which he helped found. He provided medical support to those taking part in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, and became Martin Luther King, Jr’s personal doctor when he visited Chicago. Young treated him only once, when someone hurled a rock at him during a march for fair housing.
Young never lost the fight for campaigning. In the 1980s he was a tireless advocate of single payer national health insurance and became president of the organisation, Physicians for a National Health Program. He was a well known figure on the national stage but was never admitted to the inner sanctum of policy making. He met Hillary Clinton when she began her healthcare initiative as first lady but was unimpressed with her ideas.
He was also disappointed by president Barack Obama’s health reforms, which, he felt, gave too much power to the health insurers. He knew Obama, a fellow Chicago southsider, and supported his candidacy for president. In recent months he was energised by Bernie Sanders’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, having met him previously to discuss single payer insurance.
Paragraphs about his political activism could give the impression that Young was a dour man, but nothing could be further from the truth. He was the eternal optimist, the happy warrior who would gladly march out to battle again and again. Nothing bothered him more than a cynical or conservative young person. He was a great raconteur and loved the arts, visiting the Shakespeare festival in Stratford, Ontario, every year.
Quentin David Young (b 1923; q Northwestern University 1948), d 7 March 2016.
1 Young Q. Everybody in nobody out: memoirs of a rebel without a pause. Copernicus Healthcare, 2013.
Quentin Young (1923-2016): Advocate, Activist, and “Rebel Without a Pause”
By Theodore M. Brown, PhD, Elizabeth Fee, PhD, and Michael N. Healey
American Journal of Public Health, June 2016
This July 1993 editorial by Quentin Young (written in collaboration with Ida Hellander) beautifully captures the spirit of the man and his deep commitments to health reform, political activism, and the quest for social justice. He wrote “Health Care Reform: A New Public Health Movement” as the United States seemed ready for a comprehensive overhaul of its health system. Two major options were in contention: the “managed competition” proposal of the Clinton administration and a Canadian-style “single-payer” proposal strongly promoted by a new advocacy organization, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Managed competition gave a central role to the private insurance industry, whereas single-payer eliminated private insurance and, as in the Canadian health system and Medicare, relied on government administration and oversight.
Young pointed out that managed competition with its profit incentives and market mechanisms was largely untested. Considerable evidence indicated that US Medicare was far more efficient than private insurance, and the General Accounting Office demonstrated that:
If the United States streamlined administration to Canadian levels by adopting a single-payer system…the savings would be enough to cover health care for every uninsured American.
The Clinton administration considered some modifications of its proposal to win over single-payer advocates but left a major role to private insurance, despite opinion polls showing a national majority in favor of the single-payer plan.
Quentin Young’s life and career moved from the identification of social needs and reform options to professional advocacy and popular political mobilization. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1923, the son of Russian and Lithuanian immigrants, he spent some of his childhood in Oxford, North Carolina, and was acutely aware of segregation. By the time he entered high school in Chicago, Quentin had already developed strong political views.
In Hyde Park High School he joined the American Student Union, whose members identifi ed as “progressive” and anti-Nazi. When he entered the University of Chicago Born in in 1940, he became very aware of the disparity in health care options off ered to students. White students were treated at the University hospital, but Black students were sent to Provident Hospital, a run-down and segregated institution.
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