The following tributes and reminiscences are among the messages that PNHP has received in response to Dr. Quentin Young’s death on March 7, 2016. We will continue to gather these. We invite you to submit your own comments to email@example.com.
I feel so fortunate to have “known” him when I was infant in 1960 and bounced on his lap (my dad was a resident at UChicago, moonlighting in his office) … and then to have met him as an adult years later with PNHP. (Alas, the first newspaper blurb does not mention his role in the desegregation of Chicago health care and his fight for civil rights.)
He lives on forever in his acts of goodness while he was with us, and in the memories activism we carry on with him in our hearts.
– Steve Auerbach, M.D.
I was a young physician in Chicago in the late ’60s and early ’70s, feeling very lost in the maelstrom of conflicting ideologies and unsure of how to participate in reform. The Medical Committee for Human Rights, and in particular its president, Quentin Young, was a voice for reform and reason. His example and leadership over the last half century have been outstanding in the effort to reform American medicine.
Rest in Peace, Dr. Young.
– Martha Willi, M.D.
Dr. Quentin Young has had an immeasurable influence on my personal and professional life since my childhood in Hyde Park in Chicago. His progressive thought and influence was key in supporting the Chicago chapter of SNCC in the ’60s along with many other social organizations. He always encouraged me to excel.
He was a medical mentor of mine during my time at Cook County Hospital in the 1970s. (He prophesied that physicians should unionize before hospitals and insurance companies took over all facets of medicine). During the ’90s he readily convinced me that PNHP would give physicians a platform to survive in the 21st century, which it has done.
His loud voice for quality and justice will be sorely missed. He made it clear to me early on that a physician’s responsibilities extends far outside the framework of his/her office.
My condolences to his daughter Polly and the rest of the family. His loss truly represents the end of an era, but his message lives on.
– Dr. Oliver W. Crawford Jr.
I too am so sorry to hear this news. He leaves a very rich legacy to be carried on to achieve Good Health Care for All Humans!
– Norma MT Braun, M.D., FACP, FCCP, PNHP member
From social media: Very sad news, my beloved father-in-law, Dr. Quentin Young, passed today. Born in Chicago, he was a lifelong activist, and a stalwart supporter of social justice and single-payer health care. He fought against racial segregation at Chicago hospitals, and his friends and patients included Dr. Martin Luther King, Studs Terkel, Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, and many, many more. He was deeply proud of his children, the Youngs: Nancy, Polly, Barbara, Michael, and my husband, Ethan (a doppelganger for this old photo of Quentin), his 2nd wife Ruth’s children, William Weaver and Karin Weaver, and his hordes of brilliant and wonderful grandchildren. People often say they want to change the world, Quentin spent his life doing it.
– Mary Dore, New York
We need to be committed to work for single-payer health care especially at this moment. I found an article on the PNHP website, the last line of which shows us why we need to continue the fight: “‘I tell people that I will refuse to die until there is national health care,’ he laughed.” Dr. Young hoped that he would see Medicare for all in his lifetime.
– Pam Gronemeyer, M.D., Illinois
A personal story: Quentin’s passing also is one less link to my late father, Marian S. Tarzynski, M.D., who practiced with Quentin for a time in the 1950s and 1960s at the Union Health Service in Chicago. Whenever I saw Quentin at PNHP meetings he would always first ask me how my dad was doing. Another small example Quentin’s great humanity and caring.
– Stephen Tarzynski, M.D., California
We send our heartfelt condolences to Dr. Young’s family and PNHP colleagues.
Our family carries in our hearts Quentin’s compassion and support when we lost our son Nick. He was mentor, colleague and second family to Nick, making him pivotal in bringing Nick full circle in his adult life. Quentin heightened Nick’s sense of social justice and the common good especially in health care reform. Reading his memoir confirmed what we already knew – we were all fortunate to have a kind and amazing human being touch our lives.
We thank you for sharing him with us.
– The Skala Family, Judy, Ron and Eric
I’m very touched. Quentin served us all well. It was a privilege to have known him for a half century.
– Henry Kahn, M.D., Georgia
In 2002, at the time of one of the worst public health crisis in Argentina, I was invited by PNHP to talk about it in Philadelphia. It was then a joy and an honor to meet Quentin and get his support and friendly advice. My colleagues and I will be always grateful to PNHP and Quentin for that unforgettable experience. He will be forever in our hearts and minds.
– Carlos Trotta, M.D., Argentina
Dr. Quentin Young was my mentor and “kindred spirit.” In 2002-2003, when I served as president of the American Medical Women’s Association, I invited Quentin to speak at the AMWA national meeting on “single payer universal health care.” He REALLY opened the eyes of the women physicians and the medical students attending the annual meeting.
Subsequently, when Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Detroit, Mich., contacted Quentin and asked him if he could find a few physicians willing to write a single-payer universal health care bill for him to introduce to Congress, Quentin replied, “Yes, I’ll have a dozen or more for you in 10 days.” I was fortunate to receive a phone call from Quentin immediately asking if I would like to work on this project, and I said “Yes” and was happily one of 17 physicians who worked on the drafting of H.R. 676 “Medicare for All.”
I have continued to work passionately toward achieving single-payer universal health care for ALL residents of Colorado and am pleased to report that we will have on our Colorado ballot in November 2016 Amendment 69, “ColoradoCare.” If we are successful in educating a majority to vote for the “common good” and vote YES on Amendment 69, we will put single-payer universal health care in our state constitution. My goal has been to achieve single-payer universal health care in Colorado in my lifetime! And now we have the rare opportunity to accomplish this in Colorado. If we are successful, we can become a model for other states.
“Everybody In, Nobody Out.” Quentin Young’s vision, courage, optimism and persevering commitment to social justice and health care as a human right will continue to inspire and motivate us.
– Elinor T. Christiansen, M.D., Colorado
When I was a young position at Cook County Hospital I was in training in radiology; however, that specialty didn’t feel right to me and I went to speak with Quentin Young who was an internist. I spoke with him about my concerns and he suggested that I change to internal medicine. After year and a half in radiology, I spent the rest of the time in my training in internal medicine at Cook County Hospital. It’s served me in good stead. I have worked for the last 47 years in emergency medicine way before it became a specialty and I have been board certified for the last 30 years. In June I will have been a physician for 50 years. I have completely enjoyed my practice of medicine and I am grateful to him for directing me in the right way. He was an unbelievably compassionate, productive, joyful physician. I am grateful for having known him a little briefly and I have admired his work. To his family it is a loss; however, no one could have given us more than he has.
– Janet Magnani, M.D., M.P.H.
I knew Dr. Young over many years. He was above all a great physician. We need more like him.
– John E. Jacoby, M.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Young will be sorely missed. I am grateful for having known him!
– Katie Robbins, M.P.H., PNHP NY Metro
Quentin Young inspired me to get involved in work for health systems reform. The first time I attended a PNHP town hall meeting was on July 17, 2005, and Dr. Young was on the program. I brought an audio recorder and recorded the proceedings and made a transcript of Dr. Young’s talk. I showed him the transcript at a subsequent PNHP presentation and asked for permission to post it online. He read the transcript and agreed, so it has been online at an old blog site of mine ever since.
I went on to attend PNHP leadership training in Pittsburgh in December of 2005 (the annual meeting had been postponed because of Hurricane Katrina), and organized and took part in several health reform meetings over the next few years.
– Hal Snyder, M.D.
Arlington Heights, IL
P.S.: “You can judge the effectiveness of your efforts by the vehemence of the opposition.” – Quentin Young
P.P.S.: “Our health system is amateur night in the lunatic asylum.” – Quentin Young
Dr. Quentin Young had me trained at the national office of Physicians for a National Health Program. Every morning he would ask “who are we fighting?” and then pause while I answered “the forces of reaction.” Then, on many occasions, he’d lay out his vision. We needed to build a movement. “A mooovement, baby” he’d say, reminding me with his slang that the 1960s were yesterday to him. He’d tick off his plan. We needed to organize the medical profession, primary care doctors and specialists and medical students. We had to reach out to labor unions of all kinds, from nurses to steelworkers, from the national and international federations to the smallest local. We needed to speak in churches and synagogues, to groups working with the disabled, and to seniors’ groups. Health care was being taken over by profit-seeking corporations damaging patient care. The pharmaceutical companies charged confiscatory prices. Single payer, Medicare for all was not just the best solution, it was the only solution. Satisfied that we shared the same views, he’d go off to return a call to the media seeking an interview or to phone one of his contacts, maybe Jesse Jackson or Dr. Ron Sable, often Rep. John Conyers or Pat Quinn. I’d work my way through a flood of inquiries, from physicians who wanted to start chapters of PNHP or needed slides for talks, to unions, churches and other groups who wanted a speaker on health care reform, to some member of the press, maybe Phil Kadner of the Daily Southtown, wondering if he could talk to Dr. Young. And it would go on like this, until the next morning, when I’d hear “Who are we fighting?”
– Ida Hellander, M.D.
Thank you for sharing Quentin with me and people like me — I am so very sorry for your loss.
– Love, Donna Smith, and the whole PDA family
Condolences from all of us on Quentin. He was a hero to all of us too.
– Chuck Idelson, National Nurses United
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.
Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead.”
“I never died,” says he.
“I never died,” says he.
From San Diego up to Maine
In every mine and mill.
Where working men defend their rights,
It’s there you’ll find Joe Hill.
It’s there you’ll find Joe Hill.
As Joe Hill said, “Do not mourn. Organize!”
– Dick Gottfried, member of the N.Y. Assembly
Quentin was my hero since I was a staff nurse in Chicago in the early ‘70s and I would read about his work in the paper, but I realize it’s a much more personal loss for all of you. My thoughts are with you in Chicago. I hope it might be possible to have a memorial service at some point that is live-streamed to all of us PNHPers around the country. Crazy idea maybe, but please consider it.
– Betsy Todd
I wanted to pass along my deepest condolences to Quentin’s family and to our movement for health care justice.
I met Quentin in Chicago in the late ‘70s while working on OSHA issues. I was in awe of him. Our lives continued to intersect over the years. I especially remember his support and presence in Arkansas when Georgians for a Common Sense Health Plan mobilized caravans to go to Little Rock after Bill Clinton’s first election and demand that he support single payer. When Clinton wouldn’t come to us, it was Quentin who said ‘march to him’ and we did!
His legacy with MCHR and contributions to Health PAC were enormously valued for always locating the right to health care for all within a broad social movement for justice and equality. Whether at APHA, PNHP or Healthcare-NOW, I always rejoiced at seeing him. He will be missed.
Rest in power, Dr. Quentin Young.
– Respectfully, Rita Valenti
Posted on the wall next to my desk at home is a poster from May, 1982: “WHO WILL CARE FOR THE PEOPLE? – SAVING SEATTLE’S PUBLIC HEALTH CARE SYSTEM.” Quentin was our keynote speaker. This was organized by the Public Health Care Coalition in the aftermath of the final closures in 1981 of what was left of the historic system of USPHS hospitals and clinics. Our coalition had fought successfully for 10 years against the closures and had helped turn the Seattle hospital into a national model of shifting the mission of the USPHS system towards working with community clinics and other local providers to serve the underserved, while at the same time continuing to serve the statutory beneficiaries – merchant seamen and commercial fishers, Native Americans, retired military personnel and dependents, refugees and more. Our coalition brought together all these constituencies under the banner “Health Care is a Right, Not a Business.” (The underlying bipartisan goal of the PHS closures since the mid-1950s was to turn delivery of care to federal health beneficiaries over to the private sector.) We and our national allies were strong enough to win from the new Reagan administration an agreement that these USPHS facilities could be turned over – with substantial seed money – to local nonprofit agencies willing and able to serve the same populations.
In Seattle at the time of the 1982 conference, we had just launched the Seattle Public Health Hospital under a charter from the city (later renamed Pacific Medical Center) and were facing an uncertain future. We brought Quentin to Seattle because of his stature as one of the greatest champions of health care as a right and a public health approach to delivery. He helped us think through what lay ahead and inspired us to keep our eyes on the prize.
Quentin came to Seattle again in 2007 and 2012 to speak at annual meetings of PHNP – Western Washington. He continued to help us think clearly and stay inspired. The struggle for health justice is a long one, and a key part of the broader struggles for a just and sustainable social order. We cannot afford to fail. So rest in peace, Quentin and I am sure we all accept your advice: “Don’t mourn – organize!”
– David Loud
My memories of Quentin date back to 1954 when I moved to Chicago I soon learned of an organization “Committee to End Discrimination in Chicago Medical Institutions.” At that time black physicians had hospital appointments only at the one black hospital, Provident Hospital. Quentin was a leader of this group which eventually succeeded in getting an appointment for a black physician at Michael Reese Hospital. Quentin continued as a leader in the civil rights movement throughout the sixties. He was a tireless fighter for human rights, as well as for national health insurance.
Although I left Chicago in 1977 I continued to meet with Quentin at annual APHA meetings where he was a leader in the fight for national health insurance. He will be badly missed.
– Joyce C. Lashof, M.D.
I had not heard that our good friend Quentin Young had passed away until today. What a great loss. He was an excellent comrade and a very good friend. I loved him dearly and we spent many interesting times together. We should do some homage to him, one way or another. Maybe we could dedicate a section in the website or something. My love to you as well.
– Vincente Navarro, M.D.
In 1967, I was president of Medical Professionals Against the War in Vietnam during a period when I was a Lieutenant Commander in the USPHS, a Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School and an early member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Our organization planned a large demonstration around the White House, bitterly objecting to the enormous toll of USA bombing and ground fire on innocent Vietnamese civilians and children as well as the use of agent orange and other toxic, chemical warfare on the forests, farms and people of that country. We also fought against the military draft which was sending so many young men to fight in a war that was maiming so many of them. This was the last demonstration that surrounded and marched around the White House – President Johnson established a permanent prohibition of demonstrations circling the White House from thenceforth.
The demonstration was followed by a well-publicized press conference in a Washington hotel with esteemed physicians from academic and private practices giving talks to the Washington, D.C., press corps. One of those eminent physicians was Quentin Young, M.D. (another was Bernard Lown, M.D., then the president of Physicians for Social Responsibility). Dr. Young gave an impassioned talk about the contravening of medical ethics in the mass killing and maiming of Vietnamese civilians and the blot on our country’s democracy that this war was producing. His comments were quoted in the Washington Post, New York Times and carried by syndicated columns throughout the USA.
Quentin encouraged me to continue my pursuit of ending the war in Vietnam. He was a friend and an important role model for me in obliterating the boundaries between politics and medicine. I will always remember him saying, “In the USA, the political and financial tail wags the medical care dog.”
– Robert Paul Liberman, M.D.
Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus
Dr. Young was my chief of medicine when I was an intern and resident at Cook County Hospital 1974-1977, and he helped me start the Freedom Center Clinic, the second satellite clinic of Cook County Hospital, at 1515 W. Monroe in 1977.
He was an encouraging, pleasant, stimulating influence and example for my development as a physician, stressing the societal, cultural, economic causes of illness and disability.
It was a privilege and honor to have worked with him.
– Glenn Winter, M.D.
I first met Quentin when working in civil rights in Mississippi in the 1960’s, and continued to cooperate with him on various projects through the Health and Policy Research Group at Northwestern University.
What a great man, and what a character. Of the many wonderful stories about Quentin, this is one of the most memorable: When he was being interviewed by a panel of Chicago politicians overseeing Cook County Hospital for a leadership position, Quentin was very open about the radical changes he planned to introduce at the hospital.
One of the politicians is reported to have said, “Dr. Young, you’ll become the Medical Director at Cook County Hospital over my dead body.”
Quentin’s response: “It’s a deal.”
You fought the good fight, Quentin, on behalf of all of us. Rest in Peace.
– Andy Gordon
Professor Emeritus, Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington
The origin of Dr. Quentin Young’s slogan “Everybody in, nobody out” in the single payer movement:
Just about every other meeting of single payer advocates includes an interruption in the program that goes roughly like this:
One activist will say that we shouldn’t call the program we favor “single payer” because nobody knows what that means. A second person will say we should call our program “Medicare for All”, because single payer is like expanding Medicare to everyone, and Medicare is one of the nation’s most well-known and regarded social programs. There’ll be general agreement among those gathered that this is a great idea, but before long a third advocate will note that Medicare doesn’t really describe the program we want, because Medicare only covers half of the medical bills of the elderly, and it is rapidly being taken over by the private insurance companies. Besides, someone else will note, Medicare is not even a single payer, but just one payer in our fragmented system. A real single payer program would be much better. If a physician is present, they might add that some doctors don’t like Medicare, and we need physicians on board.
Invariably there will be a discussion, mostly repeating these points, until someone will say we should call single payer “Improved Medicare for All.” Most advocates will be satisfied with this answer, and then, before long, the group will return to talking about the need to build a movement for … single-payer.
In 1994, Quentin and I were sitting in my office at the Chicago headquarters of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) talking about this perennial debate. (By headquarters I mean a few shabby offices we rented in the back of a large non-profit, the Community Renewal Society). I said it would be helpful if we had a catchier alternative to the term “single payer” than “Improved Medicare for All.” There was always “national health insurance” like what they have in Canada, and a “national health service” like what they have in the U.K., but some people had told me they thought those descriptions sounded like the names of insurance companies.
Quentin leaned back in his chair and said thoughtfully, “we need to find a way to express the idea that we want everybody in the same system, and we don’t want nobody out.” The “nobody” was a bit of slang from Chicago’s south side, where Quentin had lived and worked his whole life. “That’s it” I said. Quentin looked at me with surprise. “What, everybody in, nobody out?” He tried it out a few times, eventually putting the emphasis on the first syllables. “Everybody in, nobody out.”
From then on, Quentin liked to chant “everybody in, nobody out” at rallies and insert it into his talks. He’d ask “what’s so special about this phrase, after all it’s only four words, and “body” is repeated twice?” Then he’d adopt a serious tone, and explain it something like this: Well, the first two words are a political statement. If we’re serious about our democracy, everyone must be included. Everybody in. The second two words, that’s a moral statement. It would be immoral to exclude anyone needing health care. Nobody out. Then he’d break into his huge grin, and get the crowd chanting.
A lot of single payer advocates picked up the expression from Quentin over the years, including a tall young organizer who sublet a few cubicles near ours for a get out the vote drive in the mid-1990s. He used it in a now-famous talk before the Illinois AFL-CIO in 2003, but later abandoned these principles when he adopted a Republican, pro-Wall Street, health reform plan in his run for president. When Quentin heard about the Obama health plan, which leaves at least 28 million people uninsured, and control of the health care system in the hands of the private insurance industry, he cursed like a character out of the TV western he liked, Deadwood.
Quentin gave talks and interviews supporting single payer, Improved Medicare for all, H.R. 676 into his late 80’s. Besides chanting “everybody in, nobody out” with a crowd, he liked to emphasize that single payer was no longer just the best solution, it was the only solution.
Among those who carry on Quentin’s legacy are Senator Bernie Sanders, pictured below with Quentin in 2009.
– Ida Hellander, M.D.