Dear Secretary Price: Medical resident reminds HHS head to remember his roots as a doctor

Tom Price speaking
HHS Secretary Tom Price needs to remember his roots as a doctor as he reshapes the country's healthcare policies, says a medical resident. Image: Mark Taylor / CC BY 2.0

Today, Tom Price is the new secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services department, where he will help reshape the country’s healthcare policies. But more than 30 years ago, he was training at Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta’s public hospital.

And a current medical resident has written a letter appealing to him to remember the lessons he learned there.

“Remember the Grady patients who have everything to lose and no one else to turn to ... Please, Dr. Price, take the lessons you learned at Grady and use them to improve the health of all Americans,” Allyson Herbst, M.D., an internal medicine resident at Grady and Emory University in Atlanta, wrote in an opinion piece on STAT.

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Herbst urged Price to remember the “Grady stories” from his days as a resident and faculty member at the hospital, where doctors frequently encounter patients who have delayed care because they have no insurance or are afraid to rack up medical bills they cannot afford.

Herbst said she first heard about Grady when she was applying to medical school and read about a 53-year-old woman who arrived at the hospital with a plastic bag containing her cancerous breast. She couldn’t afford health insurance and delayed care until her breast literally detached from her body—a horror story that was chronicled in a book by Otis Webb Brawley, M.D., former chief of oncology and hematology at Grady and excerpted in Atlanta Magazine.

Unfortunately, such stories are not unusual at safety net hospitals such as Grady, Herbst said.

As only the third physician to head the HHS, Price will have the power to shape healthcare as few physicians ever will, she said. As the fight continues in Washington after the recent failure to pass the Republican-led American Health Care Act, which would have repealed the Affordable Care Act, she called on the conservative Price to remember his roots as a doctor as he makes decisions about health insurance coverage, Medicaid and other policies.