In a long-ago era where computer screens contained only greenish letters and numbers, I began writing opinion articles. I wrote them beginning the second half of high school, then through much of college. I started with a typewriter, shifted to clattery desktop computers the size of old TV sets, and then a Magnavox word processor I lugged around in a suitcase.
I was a Reagan Republican when I started—and a recent perusal of some of my college pieces left me with my head in my hands. As my political opinions have shifted over the years, so have the tools of my trade: I write on either a Macbook a fraction of an inch thick, or a Chromebook that costs less than a meal at a semi-fancy restaurant. Both fit easily into a book bag.
But one thing that remained constant was a desire to write my opinions professionally. To get paid to have an independent thought was a dream of mine as I launched my journalism career out of college more than 25 years ago.
Fierce made my dream come true.
A little more than six years and some 300 columns later, my presence here now comes to a close.
With every column, I tried to live up to the name of my employer. I alternately defended or took on hospitals. I criticized drug companies, CEOs and politicians and the often widespread dogma that making a buck off illness or injury seemed to be of greater importance than treating the illness or injury itself. I even challenged those who had a bigger voice than mine in journalism because I felt they could and should do a better job.
I felt I provided a tough voice to a sector where politesse seemed to be prized above all else.
I made some enemies along the way. However, the people who have written to support me always seemed to outnumber those who complained. I will take that as a compliment.
Overall, I probably didn't do much to change the healthcare business. But I will say that the airing of my opinions about how healthcare has been financed changed me in many ways. I became more skeptical of the party line. That change will chart how my career progresses—both inside and out of journalism.
In recent weeks, as I prepared to depart Fierce, new opportunities have already opened to me; that's the life of someone who works with a variety of entities rather than a single employer. I suspect in the coming years more of my work will be outside of writing. But I also suspect it will be no less skeptical and passionate, and will likely help more people. I look forward to that change.
Having said that, I wish I was not departing here. We are all involved in a seminal moment in American history that began just weeks ago with the election of Donald Trump as our next president. I fear it could be as monumental as the day 156 years ago when church bells tolled throughout South Carolina to commemorate its secession. Tough unwavering voices are needed not just in the healthcare media, but elsewhere. Per the ancient curse, we live in interesting times. We cannot afford at this juncture to lead disinterested lives.
On that note, I want to thank my editors Ilene MacDonald and Gienna Shaw for putting up with me over the years, particularly my vagaries regarding the Fierce style guide and its content management system. I also want to thank them for publishing much of what I wrote without major alterations. That meant a lot to me.
As for everyone else, I wish you a very happy holiday season and hope you have the time to spend with your families, and to take some time to rest. The year 2017 is going to be a very challenging one. We will need to be as energized as possible to confront the myriad of possibilities it will present. – Ron (@FierceHealth)