UA Professor and medical student on bike listening tour
Biking from Washington D.C. to Seattle, a UA professor and a UA medical student have decided to embark on a listening tour.
UA physician, professor and former chair of the UA Department of Family and Community Medicine, Paul Gordon, has decided to combine two things he enjoys for his sabbatical leave — biking and healthcare. Gordon flew to Washington D.C. in late April and began his journey.
“I think that people’s voices are not heard when you have just telephone data, so the opportunity presented itself to me through a sabbatical,” said Gordon. “And what better way to hear peoples voices than to have conversations.”
Gordon, who has been working at the UA in the College of Medicine for around 30 years in various positions, is dedicated to learning more about healthcare and listening to how he can better understand his patients.
Laurel Gray, a first-year medical student at the UA, is also participating in this project. Gray was able to do so because of a generous stipend that Charles Cairns, dean of the UA College of Medicine, provided. She started biking from her hometown Minneapolis to Seattle and is planning to leave the tour in late June.
“I wanted to know how the Affordable Care Act has affected people in the US,” Gray said. “As someone who studies to become a physician, I think it’s important to understand the obstacles that people face in accessing care.”
The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is a U.S. healthcare law that works to improve access to care and lower the costs of healthcare through regulation and taxes.
In a 2014 survey conducted by Kaiser Health Tracking poll, 46 percent of participants were not in favor of the ACA, 38 percent were in favor and 16 percent were unsure or refused to answer.
“We are in very rural parts of the United States, in communities that typically are not recipients of such surveys, so we are getting to hear the voice of people that are typically not heard and I think that’s really important,” Gray said.
According to Gordon, the interviews they are holding are not treated as interviews, but rather normal everyday conversations.
“They’re just conversations, and the conversations are typically started by our bike jerseys which says ‘Talk to me about Obamacare’,” Gray said. “People read that and ask [us], and if they feel compelled to engage in conversation then they can do so.”
Gray said that one of the key parts of this listening tour is that they can actively engage and follow up with people and their responses.
“It’s not a survey, it’s not a telephone interview — people are interviewed on their own terms,” Gordon said. “If someone expresses dislike or support towards the ACA, it’s much easier in person to say ‘Oh can you tell me more about that’ and further prompt that person to dig more into the why, than just a yes or no or multiple choice survey questions.”
Both Gordon and Gray chose biking as their mean of transportation because they have a history with bike riding.
Gordon has been riding bikes for 45 years now and Gray found her love for bike riding through completing a bike tour in Mexico before starting medical school.
Gordon says he has a great sense of appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, senior vice president of Health Sciences for his support and Cairns by providing the subsidy to allow Gray to join as a student researcher on the project.
Gray and Gordon will update their blog, Bike Listening Tour, along their journey. The journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges has invited Gordon to share his experience.
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