Politicians want us to think there are only two options for healthcare: Obama or Trump. ER doctor Frank Coughlin has a much more radical proposal.
Towards Health Autonomy: Interview with Dr. Frank MD
Name the materials necessary for the common good, or how about just your top three. Health is an arguable front-runner, no? It should be way up there, alongside things like freedom and the environment.
Medical care’s active role in healing denotes its intrinsic value to our common human experience, and for that our communities have a real dependence on Healthcare. Please note its capital ‘h’. The medical industrial complex touts both material and nonmaterial forces in its ranks. Knowledge, profit, and taste keep us under the authority of Health. Yet there could be hope. According to my friend and comrade Dr. Frank, we may be living through a time of immense change in the way health services function.
Frank and I met at Woodbine, an experimental hub in Ridgewood, Queens that hosts workshops, lectures, and discussions. It serves as an organizing space for various autonomous projects. The Woodbine collective means to develop the skills, practices, and tools for building autonomy. They also serve a mean communal dinner every Sunday.
For Frank, Woodbine represents both the material and the ideal. “It is a local aggregating point, a space for ideas to take shape, while on a larger level it exists for the goal of building a revolutionary life.” He says the way to build that life is to build communally, to find the means for collectivities to grow, and to shape them in a way that overcomes the limitations of the context we find ourselves in today.
In search of the common good, I asked Dr. Frank how we might address Health dependency, if he could imagine entirely different models than what are offered, and what he suggests we do now to develop generative communal health care.
You’re a doctor but you’re also a radical organizer and active member of the revolutionary autonomy collective Woodbine. How’d you get into this?
When I was in high school I wanted to be the surgeon for the New York Mets. I had this grand plan to go to a good college, get into a good medical school, go to orthopedic surgeon residency, and drive BMWs by the time I was thirty. Yeah, I guess I fell off that track, now I ride a 70s Peugeot bicycle to work.
I work in the ER at Bellevue Hospital, I’ll wrap up my residency in July. But, I came to medicine circuitously; I was a chubby kid and I broke my arm a lot. The last time I broke my arm I told myself I’d be a doctor so I could fix it and not go to the ER anymore. It’s funny, but it got me on this track.