How Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Lost My Vote

05/27/2010 09:19 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Soon after the attempted, and thankfully foiled, terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka Underwear Bomber, on Christmas Day of 2009, there was much talk about what steps need to be taken to ensure this never happens again. One of the many ideas offered did not sit well with me, mostly due to my history as a cancer survivor. This particular plan was to give full body x-rays at airports, which could certainly prove unhealthy to those of us who have had radiation therapy in the past.

With this in mind, I contacted New York Senators Schumer and Gillibrand with my concerns through their respective websites. Schumer's office never responded. The following response came from Gillibrand's office. Please read the first sentence very carefully. Then read the rest of the correspondence, which was nothing more than a form letter addressing health care legislation then on the front burner in Congress.

Thank you for contact [sic] me regarding health care reform and cancer treatment. I strongly believe that cancer patients should receive the best care possible while we work toward a cure.

Approximately 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year. Instead of focusing their energies on recovery, cancer patients are forced to worry about keeping their coverage and paying out-of-pocket costs. Survivors seeking private health insurance are refused coverage or quoted prohibitive premiums. I support comprehensive health care reform that outlaws rescission, covers preventive care, and prevents insurance companies from discriminating against patients with pre-existing conditions.

With more than 1,500 Americans dying from cancer daily, there is more work to be done in prevention, research, and treatment. I have cosponsored legislation that expands the National Cancer Institute and increases grants for the study of rare cancers. I am hopeful that more favorable legislation involving cancer awareness and research will be passed during this Congressional session.

Thank you again for writing to express your concerns, and I hope that you keep in touch with my office regarding future legislation and concerns you may have. For more information on this and other important issues, please visit my website at and sign up for my e-newsletter."

Clearly the senator's staff didn't take the time to read what I had written. Its this kind of tone-deafness and lack of true contact with the voter that is of the most concern. Its not a stretch to understand why there are people on the fringe running for elective office these days and why some are gaining momentum. Secondly, I'm not sure that I can pull the lever for a senator who hires staffers that don't even know how to write a proper sentence. But what can you expect from a person who wasn't elected to the position but appointed by an appointed Governor? As for Senator Schumer, I'll address him when he's up for reelection. Simply put, we need better than this.

Regarding my concerns about full body scans, after careful research it appears that you can request a full body pat down instead. At least that issue can be put to rest.

Jonathan A. Schein is president/CEO of ScheinMedia, publisher of NYinc magazine, and a non-hodgkins lymphoma survivor.