Dr. Quentin Young
Physician, Activist for Health Care Justice and Equality: b. 1923
Over a career that has spanned six decades, Dr. Quentin D. Young has made his mark as a national leader for social justice in the United States. His visionary thinking about health care underscores the connection between truly universal, comprehensive health care, civil rights and social justice. He is widely regarded as the nation’s preeminent advocate for single-payer national health insurance – sometimes called “an improved Medicare for all.”
Dr. Young points out that the US spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, about $8,160 per capita in 2009. Despite the money spent, people in the US are not healthier than citizens of many other countries. More than 50 million Americans have no health coverage while millions more are inadequately covered.
Young cites peer-reviewed research showing that the bureaucracy and paperwork associated with the private health insurance industry consume about 31 percent of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer could save more than $400 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans. Patients would go to the doctor or hospital of their choice.
In the health care reform movement, he is credited with coining the slogan, “Everybody in, Nobody out.” He has spoken on this and related themes before hundreds of physician and lay audiences across the nation.
From 1943-1945, Dr. Young served in the US Army and later in the US Public Health Service. He graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1948 and completed his residency in internal medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago.
From 1952 until March 2008, he practiced internal medicine in Chicago’s Hyde Park community, and from 1972-1981, he served as chairman of the Department of Medicine at Cook County Hospital. For many years he also served as senior attending physician at Michael Reese Hospital on the city’s South Side.
Throughout his career, he has displayed deep concern about health care disparities and inequities based on race, income and gender, and he has acted on those concerns.
In 1951, Dr. Young was a founder of the Committee to End Discrimination in Chicago Medical Institutions, which focused on uprooting racist practices in the city’s hospitals and clinics.
He was a founder and served as national chairman of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), which was formed in June 1964 to offer support and, where possible, provide medical care for civil rights workers, community activists and summer volunteers working in Mississippi during Freedom Summer.
MCHR also provided support and emergency medical care to anti-war protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In October 1968, he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee about his knowledge of the DNC protests; he courageously challenged the committee’s constitutionality and denounced its violation of democratic rights.
During Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visits to Chicago, Dr. Young served as the civil rights leader’s personal physician.
In 1983, Mayor Harold Washington appointed Dr. Young president of the Chicago Board of Health. In 1997, Young was inducted as a Master of the American College of Physicians. In 1998, he served as president of the American Public Health Association. He has been a member of the American Medical Association since 1952.
Dr. Young also served on the American College of Physicians’ Health and Public Policy committee and chaired its subcommittee on Human Rights and Medical Practice. For many years he was featured regularly as the medical commentator on WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio. He holds the position of clinical professor of preventive medicine and community health at the University of Illinois Medical Center.
In 1980, Dr. Young founded the Chicago-based and Illinois-focused Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG), which conducts research, education, policy development and advocacy for policies that impact health systems to improve the health status of all people. Dr. Young is currently the chairman of HMPRG. Since 1992 he has served as national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a national research and education organization with more than 18,000 members representing every state and specialty. PNHP was founded in 1987 and has physician spokespeople across the country who advocate for a single-payer national health program.
In January 2010, Dr. Young was appointed by Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn as the nation’s first state Public Health Advocate.