#TIYMLI with Dr. Woody Myers

#Tryityoumightlikeit with Deborah Dorman is a platform for a generation of approximately 80 million baby boomers to speak out and share their wisdom and leave nothing left unsaid for the future generations to come.

It is a distinct honor to introduce you to a third generation Hoosier, physician, former Indiana Health commissioner, business owner and a wonderful family man. He is a product of Indianapolis public schools and a graduate of the historical Shortridge High School, a graduate of Stanford University with a medical degree from Harvard University and an MBA from Stanford.

Early on in his career, he worked as an emergency room physician and an IU School of Medicine professor. It was his first real look at the impact the disparity of income has on health outcomes. He has spent his entire career fighting for change. By the age of 30, he became the youngest person to serve the Indiana State Health Commission overseeing 2800 employees and 5 state institutions. During his tenure, he helped make Indiana a leader in the education on AIDS and gained national recognition when he fought to keep Ryan White (a teenager with AIDS) in school when his school district banned him following his diagnosis. As a nationally recognized and accomplished leader in the public health arena, he is uniquely qualified to be a leader who fights every day to improve access to affordable, quality health care and reduce prescription drug costs, and make sure that students receive high quality education, protect the environment, and ensure workers have good paying jobs across Indiana and ensure economic development.

Meet this incredible Hoosier, Dr. Woodrow Myers! I am also proud to say he is running to be your Governor in 2020.

Deborah Dorman:  You’ve had such an extensive career, and have experienced so many things, both positive and negative, what keeps you going when times get tough?

Wood Myers: I’ve learned that tough times are “relative”. There are always going to be really tough days- and when they happen, I try to remember that those who came before me- my great-great grandparents had days far tougher than any I’ve ever had or am likely to have.  With the help “oral history” and online research, I’ve learned about what life was like 100-150 years  ago for those who came to Indiana from KY (my father’s side) and from North Carolina (my mother’s side). Their daily struggles, in slavery and in the years after were far greater than mine.

DD: You have been a pioneer in our healthcare system for many decades. What’s one innovative idea that you think might help improve our healthcare system?

WM: We are in a crucial period where what we can do as physicians to preserve and save lives is far greater than ever before. However, costs have become prohibitive which is why we must embrace those emerging technologies like “Telehealth” which will both increase access and reduce non-value-added cost. Today’s telehealth capabilities are proving exceptionally helpful in our COVID-19 crisis.

DD: Recent events have exposed more widely than ever, the racial injustice that exists in our country. How can Indiana set an example nationally to address things like police brutality and racial inequality?

WM: In my Criminal Justice Plan I outline several specific steps we should take including multiple changes to current law enforcement practices, much better mandatory training, and better civilian oversight and collaboration with law enforcement. Law Enforcement today is far more part of the solution than it has been in the past.

DD: You are an ardent environmentalist and climate change activist. What are some ways that our city and our private citizens can help in the fight against global warming?

WM: We simply must phase coal out as a generator of our energy and replace it with renewable energy sources. That will greatly reduce air pollution that is responsible for preventable lung and heart diseases. At the same time, we’ll provide new opportunities for Hoosiers who today work in the coal industry.

DD: With so many conflicting reports and sheer amount of data out there, what are your go-to sources to get the most relevant information about COVID-19? What’s one thing we can all do to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus?

WM:  I read the reports from the CDC, FDA, Harvard Institute for Global Health and Johns Hopkins as my primary sources for accurate information.  I’m also impressed by the work of the Fairbanks Institute at Indiana University.

We must think long-term not short-term.  Until we have an effective vaccine- social isolation and masks are the best weapons. The resulting economic challenges are real, and they are painful. But the unimpeded spread of the virus to vulnerable populations is worse.

DD: As our community starts to settle into the “new normal”, what are some ways that you’ve been adapting as you move forward in these uncertain times both personally and professionally?

WM:  We’ve started a Saturday Family Zoom with my children, grandchildren, and other close relatives. Every Saturday at 12:30p! I am watching my grandchildren grow up much faster than I’d like, and I’m seeing how my own children have become wonderful adults, responsible citizens and great parents.

DD: What is the one thing you wish your 25 year-old self knew before embarking on your personal and professional career?

WM: It goes by very quickly.  The journey is as important as the destination.

DD: If you were to do everything all over, would you do anything differently? If so, what would that be?

WM: Yes. I’d follow my instincts far more often.  There’s always a risk, but caution can often lead to missed opportunity.

DD: Describe yourself in 5 words.

WM: Impassioned. Impatient. Invigorated. Inspired. Inquisitive

DD: Describe a life changing moment?

WM:  Getting down on one-knee in front of thirty friends at a St. Valentine’s day party in 2012 and asking Stacy to marry me.

DD: What stands out as the most memorable moment in your career as a healthcare practitioner?

WM: As an intern in internal medicine at Stanford Medical Center I had a patient with severe unstable heart disease in the Coronary Care Unit. He was a small business owner from Alabama, who had traveled to California because he had heard of Stanford’s reputation in cardiac surgery and heart transplantation.

I am an African American and he was Caucasian. He did not expect me as his intern, and I did not expect to have him as my patient. We confronted and immediately moved beyond our stereotypes and assumptions about each other.  He wanted to live, and I wanted to help him. We did everything we knew to do, but his disease was too severe for the tools we had available in those days. On his last day, his last words, as I was at his bedside were “Doc, is there anything else we can do?”, and then he had a cardiac arrest and died.

Today we have numerous tools and medicines to treat his disease, many of them developed by members of the teams of physician-scientists in that very CCU.

I know that my purpose is to answer his question  in the larger context.  There is much that we can do.  We can improve education, healthcare, and the economy so that everyone, irrespective of race or geography, is able to benefit from the incredible progress we continue to make to preserve and protect human life.

DD: As a third generation Hoosier is there something special that has changed the fabric of our community that you were an active part of?

WM: Yes. I am very proud of the work done by the Indiana State Board of Health when I was Commissioner in changing attitudes regarding HIV/AIDS. Our team led the efforts to educate our state thorough the struggles of Ryan White and his family. All Ryan wanted to do was to go to school like his friends- but it was fear and ignorance that created a public firestorm that rippled through our state.  When Ryan started a new school and was welcomed with open arms in the late summer of 1987- Indiana’s reputation changed- for the better, as did attitudes across our state and our nation.

DD: What is the best advice you ever received from someone and who was it?

WM: “Woody, there are two types of people in the world, there are hustlers and there are suckers. So, if you are not a hustler, then by definition you are a sucker” -Wesley Curry MD (at the time he was a college sophomore and I was a freshman)

The essence of the advice: Either I worked hard to make good things happen, or not-so-good things would happen to me.

I took the advice.

DD: If you had the time to sit down and enjoy a cocktail and discuss your vision for the future with someone, who would that special person be? 

WM: My grandson and granddaughter.  (If a “cocktail” is involved, it would be on their 21st birthdays….)

Thank you, Dr. Woody Myers for sharing part of your life’s journey with all the readers. You are a baby boomer of distinction, and one who can lead us to a kinder, gentler world as we attempt to eradicate bigotry, racism, and social injustice. Best of luck in November!

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