Dr. Quentin Young, the Chicago-based physician who cared for Martin Luther King, Jr., Studs Terkel, and President Barack Obama and was described as “perhaps the nation’s most eloquent and high-profile spokesperson for single-payer national health insurance” in the United States, died Monday surrounded by family. He was 92.
“I’ve spent a lifetime trying to help others – in my daily rounds, in my clinic, as a hospital administrator, at demonstrations, in my work with health advocacy groups – and it all adds up to deeply rewarding career. Few people have such good fortune.” —Dr. Quentin Young (1923-2016)A prominent spokesperson for Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), one of the nation’s leading single-payer advocacy groups, Dr. Young was a committed voice for a health system built on the needs of patients and society as opposed to one designed to accommodate the greed and profit-making of insurance companies, private hospitals, and Big Pharma.
In a statement, PNHP executive director Dr. Robert Zarr said that 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, personal courage, and his ability to inspire those around him to join him in the battle for a more equitable and caring world.”
In addition to his work with PNHP, Dr. Young co-founded and chaired for many years the Chicago-based Health and Medicine Policy Research Group. He also became well known in Chicago by hosting a public radio program in which he discussed health and social issues and took calls from listeners.
Young was also a leader in public health policy and medical and social justice issues. He was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal physician during his stays in Chicago, and during the civil rights era he served as national chairman of the Medical Committee for Human Rights.
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Nationally, Young achieved prominence for his human rights and advocacy work and was noted for accumulating an impressive list of patients, which in addition to King included journalist Terkel, the current president, and many others.
As the Chicago Tribune reports:
Quoted by the Tribune, Young’s son Michael fondly recalled being brought to those protests and rallies during his youth as well as memorable visits to the family home by civil rights luminaries such as Stokely Carmichael.
“My father had a real magnetism,” said Michael Young. “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.”
Dr. Young made national headlines in 2009 and 2010 during the congressional fight over what ultimately became known as Obamacare, by coming out against his powerful former patient’s plan in favor of a single-payer strategy.
As Common Dreams reported at the time, Dr. Young and his allies had many specific reasons for opposing an approach that, despite its many positive aspects, actually left the private insurance apparatus even more powerful and profitable. In a 2010 statement for PNHP, during the height of the legislative fight, Dr. Young argued:
On behalf of PNHP on Tuesday, Zarr extended the organization’s condolences to Young’s family and friends, and pledged—”inspired by his example”— to forever carry on his work. Zarr also quoted from Young’s 2013 autobiography——in which he wrote:
On Twitter, friends and fans of Young’s career shared their fond memories and appreciation of the man and his work:
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