Homeless man teaches MD about inequalities

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Chicago Tribune‘s Judith Graham tells the story of a doctor who befriended a homeless man who sold StreetWise magazine at a local pharmacy, then offered him a place to live. As the doctor has worked to help his friend achieve financial independence, he has learned to view health care inequalities from a different perspective.

Now (Dr. Allen) Goldberg uses insights from (Everett) Atkinson — for example, how African-Americans in poor communities can distrust white doctors — in his volunteer work in tough city neighborhoods. “He helps me understand a lot because who knows better about being disadvantaged?” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said he’d never been exposed to true poverty before, and that the exposure has changed his thinking and informed his approach to medical outreach.

The doctor said he’s learned the need to listen to other people deeply, carefully and without judgment — a lesson he’s using in volunteer work with the Chicago Asthma Consortium. The group plans “listening sessions” with residents of poor neighborhoods this year about ways to reduce asthma’s burden.

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