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3,000 miles later, UA professor and UA medical student return from their bike listening tour

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After biking over 3,000 miles, a UA professor and a UA medical student have returned to Arizona after a three-month sabbatical and research leave. The duo rode across the country with the goal of hearing what the country thought of the Affordable Care Act, particularly the more rural areas of the country.

Paul Gordon, a UA physician, professor and former chair of the UA Department of Family and Community Medicine, embarked on the bike listening tour from Washington D.C. to Seattle.

UA medical student Laurel Gray was able to participate in the project as a student researcher because Charles Cairns, dean of the UA College of Medicine, provided her with a stipend.

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“I think that the take away I got from this bike tour is that we as medical students, should be politically informed," Gray said. "It’s really important because we have the most time with patients. When we are speaking with patients, we are trying to learn about them. We have way more time than the doctors and we can answer questions, so we can answer questions about what is ACA.”

Both Gordon and Gray are experienced bike riders. Gordon has been biking for over 45 years, while Gray began riding seriously after a bike tour in Mexico before she started medical school.

Throughout the bike tour, Gordon and Gray took stops in rural areas of the U.S. where they conducted interviews with locals, asking them about their thoughts on the Affordable Care Act.

They said many times that conversations with strangers would spark because of their bike jerseys which say, “Talk to me about Obamacare."

The two have compiled a total of 115 conversations with people about the ACA and have made plans to publish their research.

Gray said that every day, they wrote up the interviews they collected and published them on their blog . She said the responses will be continually analyzed and later on, the information gathered will be compiled and used for qualitative data.

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“We have written three manuscripts, one has been accepted and will be published in the next month," Gordon said. "The other two are in review and will hopefully be accepted."

Gordon said their research will be presented to various departments who have invited them to share their tour experience, including the journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“I have gotten an enormous insight into experiences of people in rural America," Gordon said. "I’ve been a city boy of my life, so that provided a lot of insight and certainly that will improve my teaching and my patient care."

Both Gordon and Gray said they have a great sense of appreciation for Dr. Joe G. N. “Skip” Garcia, senior vice president of Health Sciences and Cairns for their support and the subsidy they provided to Gray to allow her to be able to join on the project as a student researcher.

“Paul’s idea for his sabbatical truly embraced the concept of ‘where the rubber meets the road,'" Garcia said. "Cycling cross-country with the purpose of meeting new people and listening to their perceptions of the Affordable Care Act has given him new perspectives and insights that will be invaluable in his roles as teacher and physician."


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