Happy Independence Day!
Even though I'm a day early, I wanted to use today's column to express my wish that however and whenever you are able to celebrate the Fourth of July, that you have a fun, fulfilling and safe holiday weekend.
And I especially want to thank those who are working through the holiday; we appreciate your being on the job. A 24/7 organization requires a higher level of commitment than any other type of business, so thank you for shouldering this responsibility.
In celebrating our nation's 239th birthday, one can't help but think about the momentous few weeks that have just passed. Landmark Supreme Court decisions and a national conversation - borne of unspeakable tragedy - about symbols embraced by some and offensive to others are examples of a vigorous democracy coming to terms with the great issues of the day.
Whatever your feelings are on these issues - and I expect they are as varied and complex as the nation's at large - it's my hope that we will be kind and respectful to one another. Recognize that others have the right to their personal views, and that regardless of the issue, there is much more that unites us than divides us.
Our system of government is imperfect. But, in my opinion, there's none better out there. Our founders could not have imagined the world we live in today, but they designed a government that can somehow accommodate the endless variety of interests that is America in 2015.
And now a few words about the Affordable Care Act. Whatever your views of the health-care legislation that has come to be called Obamacare, the Supreme Court last week affirmed a key provision that makes health insurance subsidies available to qualifying residents of Mississippi and other states with federally-run exchanges. The political process may one day repeal the ACA, modify it, or substitute something else in its place, but for now, it remains the law of the land.
As the leader of Mississippi's only academic health science center I feel obliged to say this: As long as a large portion of Mississippians - about one in four - remains without health insurance, it will be extremely difficult to move our state out of last place in health status. Health insurance is a crucial piece of the puzzle.
Lack of health insurance affects access to care. Many of the patients we see with late-stage cancers, for example, could have been much more easily treated and in some cases cured had they been diagnosed sooner. But, in too many cases, those patients did not go to the doctor because they believed they couldn't afford it.
So, as a physician, a health-professions educator and a health system administrator, my view is that the more Mississippians are able to gain timely and appropriate access to health care, the better. And health insurance has a vital role to play in that.
As I write this, we are embarking on a new fiscal year, the 60th in UMMC's history in Jackson. We have big plans for the coming year. And although we can't afford to do all we would like to do as an organization, we are in relatively good financial health, due largely to your diligent efforts. Thank you for everything you do for UMMC, our patients and our students, as we all strive toward our goal of A Healthier Mississippi.