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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Some Appalachian Wisdom About Health Care

When I was growing up on Right Beaver Creek in Knott County Kentucky, there were two relatively easy options for my parents when simple childhood illnesses were involved.  There were two doctors in private practice a few miles away in Floyd County just down Beaver Creek.  One of those doctors was Mark Dempsey, M.D. who practiced until he was nearly ninety and died in the late 1960's in my teenage years.  Most children hated to go to see him but I am sure his medicine was just as effective and safe as that being practiced by anyone else in the area at the time.  But his manner was brusque and abrupt.  He was still using reusable syringes and needles which he sterilized in an autoclave. We children often accused him of "not sharpening his needles".  His wife was his assistant although I have never been told that she was a nurse.  He had begun his practice in Floyd County as a company doctor for the Elkhorn Coal Company after moving from his native Logan County West Virginia, and was a cousin of the prize fighter, Jack Dempsey, although he never made any effort to gain advantages from the relationship.  He was in all ways a native Appalachian male who had grown up relatively poor and done well based on hard work.  His office was in an old building between the railroad and creek in Garrett, KY, a typical Eastern Kentucky coal mine town. His office also served as his home and after his death it lived a second life as a produce market.  The office area was cluttered, cramped, and loaded from wall to wall, corner to corner, and floor to ceiling with pill bottles, medical instruments, and all the tools of a country doctor's trade along with some odds and ends of his every day life. 

Dr. Mark Dempsey at work.  Photo by The Floyd News

Recently, Dr. Dempsey crossed my mind and I did a Google Search of his name and found a most interesting and timely newspaper article about him from about 1964 shortly before his death.  I was astounded at what I learned about the old country doctor I had never wanted to visit when I was a sick child.  After reading the article, originally published in a now defunct newspaper called The Floyd News, I found myself wishing I had been smart enough to learn at his feet while he was alive and working.  The article listed a few examples of the medical, social, and political philosophies of Dr. Dempsey which are just as worthwhile and necessary today as they were in the late 1960's when he was originally interviewed. The most timely and pertinent of the remarks from Dr. Dempsey was the following:

1) "All people should have free health care." This remark should be ringing from the mouths of every  health care provider and politician in our country today at this time when the TRAITOR Donald Trump is attempting to destroy the best health care coverage plan ever concocted in an industrialized nation.  Dr. Dempsey's name should be lauded in every public health care forum in Appalachia and the entire country today. Dr. Mark Dempsey should become one of the faces of the ongoing battle to save American health care for all future generations.  The Dempsey newspaper article was written when future American President Barack Obama was about five years old and I am certain that it contained nothing that Dr. Mark Dempsey had not been telling his patients, friends, and professional associates for forty years before that date. The words "all people should have free health care" are just as relevant today as they were when Dr. Mark Dempsey was born on the banks of the Guyandotte River more than a hundred years ago.

 2) "Every man, regardless of who he is, should be trained to do skilled work." In light of the refusals by the Right Wing Radical Repugnican Party to support free associate degrees for all citizens, as espoused by Hillary Clinton, this idea should also be a key plank in the basic political platform of the country.  Nearly every other so-called civilized country in the world has advanced ahead of the United States in the percentages of high school graduates, college graduates, and recipients of advanced degrees of all kinds.  We are rapidly deteriorating into a Third World Country educationally and the TRAITOR Donald Trump has placed a billionaire idiot whose family constructed the largest pyramid scheme in the history of the country, in charge of the US Department of Education. This brief piece of wisdom from Dr. Mark Dempsey could go a long way to rescuing America from our slow slide into international mediocrity.  If every American citizen with sufficient intelligence to pass the educational or training program of their desires could be guaranteed a vocational or college degree, we would soon be a stronger, better country with a vastly improved national gross product, national domestic product, higher median income, a larger and stronger national tax base, lower unemployment rates, and a much solider place in international competitions of productivity.  Dr. Mark Dempsey had grown up in Logan County West Virginia as the coal boom was transforming Appalachia and the Logan County Mine Wars, the Battle Of Blair Mountain, and the murder of dozens of union members, union organizers, and suspected union sympathizers were being carried out on the orders of the murderous sheriff Don Chafin and the Logan County Coal operators.  Dr. Dempsey had seen just how cheaply American corporations in the early twentieth century valued their employees.  During his childhood in Logan County, Dr. Mark Dempsey was exposed to a world in which a bank mule was considered more valuable than a man.  Logan County coal operators were notorious for saying that "you have to buy a mule but you can always hire another man".  Living in this environment, as a child with enough intelligence to complete medical school, there can be little doubt that Dr. Mark Dempsey realized many truths about the strained relationship between industry and labor and came to believe as he did that men should be trained to work to the best of their ability. 

3) "He is an avowed enemy of totalitarianism of communism, Hitlerism or any enforced subjugation of individual rights-but he can point out inequalities existing  in our system of government which might be corrected, he has said  through courageous and  honest  leadership"  Even though Dr. Mark Dempsey gave the Floyd News that interview more than fifty years ago, these words of his ring just as true today as they did then.  TRAITOR Trump, in subjugation to and cooperation with Vladimir Putin, has placed the United States in the greatest peril it has ever faced.  TRAITOR Trump seeks to inflict "subjugation of individual rights" on nearly every citizen of the country by virtue of destroying every public service program and agency instituted over the last seventy years. TRAITOR Trump has illegally and unconstitutionally authorized the arrest of the free press on several occasions in his ongoing effort to destroy the free press which exposes his crimes.  TRAITOR Trump has spoken out against having numerous services available to citizens such as National Public Radio and Public Television, the National Endowment For The Arts, the National Endowment For The Humanities, all of which lead to a better educated, more intelligent, more literate, and more verbal populace.  Dr. Mark Dempsey was a prescient and clairvoyant man in the late 1960's. Every citizen of America should be reading, defending, repeating, and supporting his ideas today all across Appalachia and America.  Every citizen should be standing up, in honor of Dr. Mark Dempsey, to defend the sacred values, Constitution, and Bill Of Rights of the United States.

Later in the article from the Floyd News, Dr. Dempsey and the writer, Qaentin Allen, wrap up much of the doctor's  belief structure in the following quote:
"When you meet [him] the man  is ready to talk of the people's  need to. become whole and become as citizens of this country. The doctor fears that his views may be misinterpreted. He is an avowed enemy of totalitarianism of communism, Hitlerism or any enforced subjugation of individual rights-but he can point out inequalities existing  in our system of government which might be corrected, he has said  through courageous and  honest  leadership. All classes of people regardless of who they are, should be trained to do skilled work and be disease free. Our government seems to to take the attitude that, If you can't do something for yourself then it won't be done. One man can't shoot a rocket to the moon. It takes the experts, the specialists. It takes the collective effort on the part of the people through the government.
One person can't give an education to eliminate the illiteracy and the disease of our people. Only the government and the scientists and the experts can do this."
"I have practiced medicine in more rich and poor homes than any other doctor in Eastern Kentucky. I have practiced among the Negro, the Jew, the Italian, the Indian. They are all the same. The Negroes treated me better than anyone has ever treated me. The people in the lower economic class are being neglected. "The experts should treat them. They should be free of disease, should have free medical service as they do in Great Britain or Russia."
"No. I am not a Communist." But how do we hope to compete with Russia? How do we compete with Russia when we have much ignorance and illiteracy? You find ignorance worse in the city than you do in the country."
Dr. Mark Dempsey Photo By Floyd News

That quotation about "courageous leadership" is just as relevant today as any word that Dr. Mark Dempsey ever spoke in his life of nearly a hundred years in the coal fields of Appalachia.  A lack of courageous leadership in most of the elected offices in this country has allowed a Russian TRAITOR and idiot to assume illegal control of the White House with the assistance of Vladimir Putin.  Dr. Mark Dempsey must be spinning in his grave today if he is cognizant of the political terrorism which is being forced on the American citizenry, the free press, the education system, the social welfare system, and environmental protections. The greatest public health insurance system ever devised in an industrialized nation is under attack from TRAITORS, criminals, corporations, and idiots in order to save billions of dollars for American corporations.  Every voter in America should be speaking up, speaking out, and defending the real American values which are being destroyed every time a baby is born dead because of lack of prenatal care, every time a bright student drops out of school because of a lack of funding, every time an elderly person fails to seek treatment because they are afraid of not having enough money, every time another environmental disaster takes place without repercussions, and every time a TRAITOR illegally occupies the White House and pretends to be qualified to do the job of the President Of The United States because the President Of Russia stole an American election.

Dr. Mark Dempsey with a child


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