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Sanjeev K. Sriram
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Dr. Sriram completed his medical degree and his pediatrics residency at UCLA, where he also served as chief resident at the Department of Pediatrics. He completed the Commonwealth Fund / Harvard University Fellowship (CFHUF) in minority health policy and earned his masters in public health. He currently cares for children in southeast Washington, D.C.. Dr. Sriram is a member of the National Physicians Alliance, and of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Any opinions expressed here reflect those of the author, and not necessarily those of his employer, associations, or organizations.

Entries by Sanjeev K. Sriram

Beyond Three-Fifths of Health With Dr. America

(0) Comments | Posted December 11, 2014 | 11:54 AM

I'm proud to be an American. I was born in this country, and my pride in America is based in this country's potential for acknowledging problems, improving ourselves, and the possibility of turning the ideal into the real. Indeed, it is that promise that drives me as a doctor and health justice advocate. However, in the midst of all that language of potential and possibility, there is undeniable struggle with no guarantee of outcomes. That is true for all of us as individuals, as communities, and as a country, right from the beginning of America. It is also true that too many of our struggles are due to man-made apathy and inaction.

One of our first sins as a country was abandoning an ideal of the Declaration of Independence: "all men are created equal." When it came time to write our Constitution, we included a three-fifths clause that said if you fit the slave profile, then you only count as three-fifths of a person. If you fit the white profile, you will be counted, but even within that category, if you have lady parts then you can not vote.

Some amateur and professional historians look at the three-fifths clause as an unfortunate but necessary evil: a desperate compromise between the different colonies to build a united country. But no matter how you reason it, we wrote into law that all men are not created equal.
Ever since then, we have struggled to see "all the fifths" of a person. We have struggled to see the humanity of families different from our own. The ideal of equality is still a work in progress. Despite all the sacrifices made by abolitionists, women suffragists, labor activists, LGBT activists, and various civil rights movements, it feels like we still fail to see a human being as a whole person in 21st century America. We are still only seeing three-fifths of our fellow Americans, either individually or as communities.

This is particularly evident in health. We have been locked into the biomedical paradigm of seeing a person's health as their organs and cells; what happens when these things go wrong; and what kinds of drugs and devices can be put in there to fix it. This is not to dismiss the work of biomedicine, but it is still only three-fifths of health.

It has been my privilege to serve as a pediatrician in southeast Washington, D.C., one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. I want to share the experiences of my patients and their families so their fellow Americans can get to know "all their fifths" and see them as more complete people.

This fall, I joined We Act Radio to start "Dr. America," a radio show about health and its politics. Our journey tells truths to power and gives power to the truths of underserved, unheard, and unseen communities. "Dr. America" is about exploring "all the fifths" of health.

This show seeks to expand our notions of health beyond biomedicine. After all, what is the point of all the research endeavors if the fruits of those labors are not available to everyone through equitable access to healthcare?

Our show will put a health spotlight on events and issues that impact the health of millions, but are sometimes overlooked because there is no flashy drug or device to market. As we make our way through the current flu season, there are millions of Americans who go to work sick, or they send their sick child to school -- not because they are cruel or negligent of their health, but because millions of low-income workers in America do not have paid sick days. Again, our failure to recognize "all the fifths" of our fellow Americans leads to imposing a false choice upon them: you can have your little bit of health or your little bit of wealth, but not both.

"Dr. America" will discuss how health fits into places beyond our clinics, hospitals, laboratories, and doctors' offices. From the courthouse to the schoolhouse to the warehouse and to the statehouse, there are "fifths" of health to be explored. Wellness depends on our zip codes as much as if not more than our DNA codes, so we must have conversations with our fellow Americans living in poverty, struggling to put food on the table, trying to get by with low employment and high pollution, and so on.

My ardent hope is that through the dialogue on "Dr. America," we will gradually see beyond the broken "three-fifths of health" model to a new framework: SALUD. In Spanish, it means health, it means bless you, and it means cheers. On "Dr. America," we will distinguish the scientific facts from the fiction about health issues. We will discuss the health benefits of strengthening the socioeconomic and cultural bonds between us. Our society's broader spiritual health depends on that connectivity. Finally, we will celebrate health or health policy accomplishments and learn from our heroes.

Our concept of health should be multidimensional, and through "Dr. America" I am excited to take that journey with...

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Back to the Future of My MD (Pt. II)

(0) Comments | Posted June 18, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Ten years ago, I earned my MD at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and was honored to be chosen as the student speaker at our graduation ceremony. Having endured residency, enjoyed a policy fellowship, and practiced as a general pediatrician in an inner-city community, I was wondering what...

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Back to the Future of My MD (Pt. I)

(0) Comments | Posted June 17, 2014 | 7:41 AM

My medical doctorate turned 10 years old this month. Here is the speech I gave at my graduation ceremony back in 2004, at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

Before I begin, I wish to thank the families, the friends, and the faculty for their unconditional love, support,...

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Obamacare and Medicaid Need Winter Soldiers

(0) Comments | Posted April 3, 2014 | 2:31 PM

During a brutal winter in December 1776, exhausted American soldiers who had suffered military defeats were facing an uncertain future for their cause of freedom and independence. Knowing the weariness of his troops and the skepticism of the Continental Congress, General George Washington ordered officers to read Thomas Paine's inspiring...

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My Faith Is Offended by Inequality, Not Birth Control

(15) Comments | Posted March 26, 2014 | 6:32 PM

On a cold rainy day, during what felt like one of winter's last tantrums, the Supreme Court heard from Hobby Lobby's owners, Steve Green and his family, whose Southern Baptist beliefs apparently conflict with the Affordable Care Act's requirement that contraception be offered in every health insurance plan's list of...

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The Surgeon General Does Not Need the NRA's Approval

(432) Comments | Posted March 18, 2014 | 10:55 AM

Since he was nominated to be Surgeon General earlier this year, Dr. Vivek Murthy has been criticized for statements he has made regarding guns and the dangers they pose to public health. Bellyaching from the NRA and Gun Owners of America has given unfortunate pause to common sense in Congress....

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Ghosts of Hunger Past, Present, and Future

(2) Comments | Posted December 10, 2013 | 8:25 PM

When I read the unabridged version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol for the first time, I, like many readers, was struck by Ebenezer Scrooge's contempt for the poor. Early in the story, prior to the visits from the now-famous ghosts, a gentleman comes to the office of Scrooge and...

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Truth, Justice and the American Way for Immigrant Kids

(18) Comments | Posted June 4, 2013 | 9:47 AM

Though Batman is my favorite comic book hero, as the American-born son of immigrants, I have always connected with Superman. His identity is tied to two very different worlds, having survived the destruction of Krypton as an infant and then growing up on Earth. Whether he goes by Kal-El (his...

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An Assault Gun Ban, Mr. Congress Man?

(8) Comments | Posted February 8, 2013 | 10:22 AM

This kinda-sorta remix of Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham is dedicated to Trayvon Martin, with whom I share a birthday, and the children who lost their lives in Newtown, CT.

Mr. Congressman,
Mr. Congressman,
Listen to me,
Mr. Congressman!


Will you pass
...

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Do You Hear What I Hear about Medicaid?

(3) Comments | Posted December 7, 2012 | 4:13 PM

Recently, while doing some errands, I heard a Christmas carol that asked a simple, yet profound question: "Do You Hear What I Hear?" The song was composed 50 years ago, when our country was facing a man-made emergency brought about by the ill-advised decisions of political leaders: the Cuban Missile...

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The Vote: Helping Children for Over 100 Years

(0) Comments | Posted November 5, 2012 | 9:01 PM

A few weeks ago, I spoke at a pediatrics residents' symposium about politics, civic engagement, the health of our patients and families, and how voting is critical in tying all of these together. At the end of my talk, I shared three images with my fellow child advocates, encouraging them...

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Lessons From Oak Creek's Youngest First Responders

(8) Comments | Posted August 21, 2012 | 12:26 PM

While I do not know Amanat Singh and her family personally, I can assume none of them expected to face a heinous crime and devastating tragedy when they visited the Oak Creek gurdwara on the morning of August 5. Many of us have learned that Amanat's family was...

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Governor, Will You Stand in the Clinic Door?

(5) Comments | Posted July 19, 2012 | 11:56 AM

"Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" George Wallace said this now infamous line on January 14, 1963 to thunderous applause at his inaugural address when he became governor of Alabama. Wallace won the election because of his defiant views towards the federal government's efforts at racial integration, including the Supreme...

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