What an extraordinary time for Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility to be celebrating our 40th anniversary. With the support of our members, donors, and volunteers, we’ve accomplished so much in these past four decades!
Challenging times can be times of profound growth and learning, and this has certainly been the case for Oregon PSR. The movements to promote peace and justice and to protect our climate continue to grow, and I encourage you to read about our ongoing work to make our world more just, peaceful, and healthy for all.
With tremendous effort and lots of preparation, we are engaged in this year’s Oregon State Legislative session to a remarkable degree, and we are in the unusual position to work for good, proactive legislation, as there are fewer bad bills to fend off than we are accustomed to. You can learn more about our 2021 legislative agenda here.
Over the past year, we have begun a new partnership with the Oregon Justice Resource Center to address mass incarceration as both a public health and a justice issue, an especially relevant topic in a time of pandemic. Please read about this important collaboration and our joint success in ensuring that all incarcerated persons in Oregon get prioritized for receiving COVID-19 vaccines to curtail the spread of this deadly virus in our communities.
The Greenfield Peace Scholarship is always a highlight of my year. I am inspired by the creativity, optimism, and idealism of the young people who participate. This year’s theme is Art & Creation: Self Expression, Activism, and Social Change, and we’ve asked for the submissions to be works of visual art from students who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Please join us on Thursday, April 29th at 6:30 PM for our online awards ceremony, which will premiere on our YouTube channel.
I think that Oregon PSR has been so effective over the last 40 years because we combine a focus on human health with the vision of a better world. I had a glimpse of how powerful the intersection of those ideas can be when I volunteered to supervise a COVID-19 vaccination clinic recently. It was deeply moving to see everyone working together to get as many people vaccinated as possible. I sat side by side (masked and six feet apart, of course) with a group of National Guard members as we drew up shots and saw them administered. My role was to answer questions and address any adverse reactions. Because there weren’t many questions and no significant adverse reactions, I was mostly just pitching in on the vaccination effort.
I have complicated feelings about the military, having gotten my start in medicine as an Air Force rescue medic and with the GI bill helping to pay for my college and medical school. While I appreciate how this benefited me personally, I see how harmful the US imperial project and militarism have been. Seeing National Guard members carrying out a public health mission, rather than a military one, was particularly
meaningful to me. That vaccination effort was a tangible example of a possible world where we work together to confront crises such as a worldwide pandemic, where our resources are redirected to beneficial projects like promoting public health, restoring the environment, building affordable housing, and providing care for children, the elderly, and those with chronic health problems.
With your support, Oregon PSR will continue to work to make the world we live in more like the one that we all need.
In peace, solidarity, and justice,
Patrick O’Herron, MD
Photo above: Dr. Pat O’Herron and his daughter Violet.
This letter was written by Patrick O’Herron, MD, Oregon PSR Board President.