August 8, 2012
The 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the privacy of its citizens and states that the government cannot interfere in their personal affairs. Someone forgot to tell the Delhi Charter School in Delhi, Louisiana who required students to take a pregnancy test if it is rumored that they’re pregnant. If the students refuse to take the test, they are essentially kicked out of school. If the pregnancy test is positive, they are forced to leave and become home-schooled.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Louisiana State Board of Education had to intervene. According to the ACLU, the school’s policy violates federal law, specifically Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 that states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
According to Wikipedia, New Delhi is a town of approximately 3,000 people where the average yearly income is $25,000 for men and $12,000 for women. Those statistics are glaring. Clearly both girls and boys desperately need an education if they are going to change their destiny. It would be interesting to know whether the fathers of the alleged pregnant girls at the charter school are forced to leave as well. Is sex education is part of the educational curriculum? Do they have or offer family planning services? Do they realize that forcing someone to take a pregnancy test is a violation of their privacy according to HIPAA rules?
Fortunately, the Louisiana Department of Education and the ACLU put a stop to the school’s unlawful practice. A society that does not respect its women does not respect its future. The school officials at the Delhi Charter School should hang their heads in shame.
March 5, 2012
Today will be a day of mourning for pregnant women who are uninsured and receiving Medicaid in Houma, Louisiana. Their local hospital closed its maternity and neonatal units because of a $2.9 million dollar budget cut. Over 100 employees will lose their jobs, many whom have held their positions for over 20 years. This closing will have a ripple effect and is an increasing phenomenon that has besieged many hospitals across our nation. Over thirteen hospitals in Philadelphia closed their labor and delivery departments and in my own backyard, South Seminole Hospital in Florida did the same. What’s going on? Hospitals claim they’re losing money and government insured and non-insured pregnant women are feeling the aftermath. These are some very scary times.
The options for Houma’s uninsured pregnant women or women who receive Medicaid are quite limited. A few years ago, they could have gone to Lafayette Hospital in Lafayette; or Earl K. Long in Baton Rouge or Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Sadly, all of those hospitals have closed their labor and delivery department. I know those hospitals well, having worked and lived in Louisiana for almost four years as a community health physician.
Although Houma is a small, close-knit community, its hospital provided hundreds of prenatal visits for pregnant women in nearby parishes. They interacted like family. The nurses at Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center are devastated and apprehensive about the future of the pregnant women knowing that most cannot afford to go to private physicians and many have high risk problems. Consequently, many of these patients will be forced to travel over 300 miles on a 5-hour trip to Shreveport, Louisiana to receive prenatal care at its charity hospital.
I strongly encourage the State of Louisiana to brace itself for an increase in infant and perhaps even maternal deaths. Many high risk patients are simply not going to be able to make that 300-mile trek to Shreveport without adverse consequences. Any perceived benefit from that $2.5 million dollar budget cut will quickly dissipate based on the spike of NICU admissions that are sure to come.
The women and their unborn babies deserve better. Shame on the State of Louisiana.
June 9, 2010
While helping my 9 year old son prepare for his science exam, I received a jolt of reality: our planet is comprised of 70 percent water. The debacle of British Petroleum has the ghastly potential of contaminating more than two-thirds of our beloved planet.
Louisiana was my home for four years after I completed residency training. I was one of the few National Health Service Corps physicians who DID repay their government obligation in exchange for my medical school education. My husband and I arrived in Southwest Louisiana from New York City on two left feet. The humidity was overwhelming but the people were an absolute delight. They were some of the most honest and appreciative people on this side of the rainbow. They either liked you or they didn’t and didn’t hesitate to let you know it. Theirs was a simple life consisting of church, family and love of country. The people of Lake Charles, Louisiana displayed their American flags long before the patriotism of September 11th emerged.
Most of my patients’ husbands worked in either chemical plants or on the oil rigs and it was an honor to deliver their babies. Many of these women would not see their husbands for months at a time and were well aware of the dangers they encountered. Perhaps that’s why at most deliveries, the waiting room would literally be filled with three or four generations of families. Great-grandmothers to the youngest children would be waiting for the next generation to be born. This ritual was almost like a funeral in reverse. The extended family would gather to greet their newest relative. I can’t begin to tell you the kind of pressure I felt initially when this would occur. My constant prayer would be: “Oh, God, please let this be an uncomplicated delivery.” And usually, it was.
The Native Americans in their infinite wisdom say that the Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth. Any first or second grader can explain how our eco-system works and how we are all intricately connected. So, what the heck were you thinking about, British Petroleum? And why didn’t our government hold them to task regarding the safety rules? The people of Louisiana did not deserve this type of calamity. The disease of greed has struck once again.
July 17, 2009
My late aunt once said: Give me my flowers while I can still smell them. Dr. Regina Benjamin, your bouquet has arrived.
Benjamin is President Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, and no one deserves that title more. Although we have never met, we are colleagues by default. We are members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and are alumni of the National Health Service Corp. Benjamin worked at the Bayou La Batre clinic in Alabama; I practiced at the Bayou Comprehensive clinic in Louisiana. Everyone was aware that Benjamin worked in a humble trailer taking care of Southeast Asian immigrants and used personal funds to build and rebuild her clinic after it was devastated by two hurricanes and a fire.
Both Benjamin and I chose career paths less traveled. No weekends off. No lucrative salaries. Professional isolation and managing complex patients with very little support. My public health career continued in Florida, Benjamin remained in Alabama.
During Hurricane Katrina, Benjamin made house calls in a pickup truck to patients who were shut in; maxed out her credit cards and mortgaged her home so that she could rebuild her clinic that was totally destroyed. However, when your light shines brightly — people can’t help but notice.
Benjamin became an associate dean of a medical school department, the president of her state medical society and the recipient of the 2008 MacArthur Foundation genius award of $500,000. Any blessings and accolades that she has received are certainly well deserved.
The dedication and commitment of Dr. Regina Benjamin should be shared by all. The well-being of her patients always took precedence over money. Why on earth can’t our healthcare system do the same?