Day: February 4, 2017

Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown, Surgeon

For day 4 of black history month, let me say I am really appreciating black history month. I love American history, and it’s lifting my spirits that every time I log into social media, there’s a story about somebody admirable and noteworthy. I am all for seeing these stories year-round, but it’s especially great to have a concentration of them in these muddy days of February. Onward!

Today, I learned about Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown (1919-2004), a Tennessean surgeon – the first African American woman surgeon in the South. She was a sort-of orphan (abandoned by her mother from babyhood to age 13, then reclaimed) and teenage runaway (because her mom wasn’t so great) who worked her way through high school and then got a college scholarship.

She graduated from medical school in 1948, then bulldozed her way through another six years of internship and residency to become a surgeon. Remember this was a time when segregation was in effect, so not every white teacher or colleague or patient was friendly to even having her in a sickroom. It was also a time when a lot of people doubted women could become surgeons, because there was a fool idea women weren’t constitutionally sturdy enough to cut into people. She did it anyway, because she wanted to, because she’d been impressed by her own childhood tonsillectomy.

In 1956, several years into her surgical practice (and an assistant professorship), she became the first unmarried woman in Tennessee to adopt a child, because given her own childhood, she thought it was important, and given her adulthood – well, she was demonstrably a hard person to say “no, you can’t” to. So much so that in 1966, she was elected to the Tennessee state legislature, the first black woman rep in the Assembly. While there, she fought (unsuccessfully) to legalize abortions in cases of rape or incest, and she was very disappointed in the rest of Tennessee for not agreeing that was an important right that would save lives.

She also helped pass the Negro History Act, which was one of the steps toward giving us a national black history month. So when I say I’m glad it exists I’m partly saying thank you to Dorothy Lavinia Brown, a bold humanitarian who expanded the definition of what was possible.

Incidentally, during the two years she was in the legislature (and for a couple decades after), she was ALSO the head of surgery at Nashville Riverside Hospital. And a full professor. And at some points, a consultant for the NIH. That’s incredible. I have no idea which one she would have called her “day job.” Probably she wouldn’t have. But if any muggle has ever had a Time Turner, I submit it may have been Dorothy Lavinia Brown.


Fiduciary Trust

A friend has asked me to weigh in on the Trump administration’s table-setting to roll back financial regulations including Dodd-Frank. That’s a natural ask, since I’m an econ nerd with family members in financial services – but I think it would be pointless to go through the proposed changes and how dangerous they could be, because the other side will come back with the same thing they always do: “This is complicated, and we’re the only people who can understand it. Trust us bank-running rich guys, the best and the brightest.”

So all I’ll say is: Do you trust them?

Do you trust that Donald “Emoluments” Trump, corporate raider Carl Icahn, and a cadre of profit-seeking Goldman Sachs execs are going to write rules to better protect you, the consumer? Do you trust that a guy who doesn’t pay taxes and won’t release his tax returns is going to strengthen oversight? Do you think the same men who want to cut government services to all of us to cut taxes for the 1% are looking out for the economic health of your family?

It’s not my job to convince you a cabinet of billionaires is out to rob you. It’s on them to convince you they’re not.

And “my already-indebted ultra-rich friends can’t get super-cheap loans anymore” isn’t persuasive. Especially coming from someone whose debt looks like this:

Donald Trump’s businesses owe $1.8bn to more than 150 different institutions, new study suggests” by Ben Kentish, The Independent

and this is how killing the fiduciary rule could affect you:

Trump Wants to Kill the Fiduciary Rule. Here’s Why That’s a Big Deal for Retirement Savers” by Megan Leonhardt, Time

Catch Your Airplane

Report: Customs and Border Protection tells airlines ‘back to business as usual’” by Cyra Master in The Hill

Pat on the back, all. Which doesn’t mean we can relax now (I say while sipping tea, semi-reclined in front of a sunny window, watching cartoons), but that we should now become giddy with power and protest protest protest because we are the champions.

(Give “We Are the Champions” another listen to rev yourself up, if you haven’t already. You know Freddie, a gay man of Zoroastrian descent, born in what’s now Tanzania, who had a pre-existing medical condition toward the end of his life, would be out at the front of the crowd if he could.)