Bernie Sanders Should Meet Angie Settle

In this country, we have a debate over whether healthcare is a right or a privilege.   My guest this week on the AHP proved that health is a right, at least it is on the East End of Charleston and the surrounding areas she and her team serve. WV Health Right was founded and continues to operate on the belief that every person is entitled to quality healthcare, even if they don’t have private insurance.  In fact, 28,000 West Virginians get quality medical care, dental care, pharmaceuticals, vision care, behavioral health services, and health education because of a small clinic on Washington Street.  It is their mission.  

Their four assumptions:

  1. Each person has inherent uniqueness, value, and worth and is therefore worthy of respect of others
  2. Basic healthcare is a fundamental right
  3. With that, there are corresponding responsibilities, including to participate in their care
  4. Members of a society have the responsibility to care for the most weak and vulnerable  

These assumptions sum up the philosophy.  In my time working with WV Health Right CEO, Angie Settle, I believe the staff lives the mission.  I learned a lot from interviewing Angie.  I also garnered a great deal of respect for the paid staff who work for less than they’d be paid at comparable facilities and the army of volunteer physicians and dentists who give freely of their time to treat patients for which they don’t receive anything other than a thank you.  

The debate about healthcare as a right has been going on for decades.  Presidents going back to FDR & Harry Truman worked to have reform in the system including everything from a single payer to our current implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  With election season just getting its stride for the 2020 contests, we hear a lot of Democratic Presidential candidates talking about “Medicare for All” and Republicans asking how we’re going to pay for it.  Maybe Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, and their Republican counterparts should spend a few hours with Angie Settle and crew. They provide healthcare for all and they pay for it.

Vaccines on Offense and Defense. A guest post from my friend, Dr. Lisa Costello.

For many, including me, football, fight songs, and colorful foliage are symbols of fall. As a pediatric hospitalist in Morgantown, the fall, however, serves as a sign of something else, something that’s not fun at all, the flu.

Flu can be a tough opponent for patients and health care providers. Fortunately, we have a game plan to help us fight it! The best way to prevent you or someone you love from catching the flu is by receiving the seasonal influenza vaccine this year and every year. Yes, the key to victory when it comes to fighting flu is getting a flu shot. In fact, the key to fighting many diseases is vaccination.

The best teams have a great offense and great defense, right? Vaccines are safe, effective, and the best way our bodies are able to score immunity (offense) to prevent illness from happening (defense.)

Vaccines have been part of the fabric of our society for decades and are the most significant medical innovation of our time. Vaccines prevent life-threatening diseases, like the flu, measles, diphtheria, polio, and hepatitis to name a few, and even prevent forms of cancer, notably cancer caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). Vaccines keep communities healthy, and protect us all, including some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, children who are too young to be vaccinated or have compromised immune systems.

Routine childhood immunization is one of the crowning achievements in public health over the past century. Studies have estimated that childhood vaccination programs have prevented hundreds of millions of cases of diphtheria, hepatitis A, measles, mumps, pertussis, polio and rubella since 1924. Robust medical evidence continues to show that vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives.

However, challenges remain. Outbreaks of measles, pertussis, Hib, and other vaccine preventable diseases are returning. Numerous factors–including the cost of acquiring and administering vaccines, an increasingly complex delivery system, as well as a small but growing number of parents who are forgoing vaccination for their children–put success in jeopardy.

West Virginia, however, is leading the nation in an important public health measure: school-age vaccination rates. We do so because we have the nation’s strongest vaccination requirements for children in school. This is something to be proud of because we are all better off for it. Be part of a winning team, make sure your and your family’s vaccines are up to date.

This post was written by Lisa M. Costello, MD, MPH, FAAP. You can hear a conversation with her about vaccines on the Appalachian Health Podcast. Dr. Costello is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at West Virginia University, Vice-President of the WV Chapter – American Academy of Pediatrics and Treasurer of the WVSMA. You can follow West Virginian’s premier #tweetiatrician on Twitter at @LisaCostelloWV.

Vaping: What we don’t know can kill us?

As of this week, the CDC has informed us that over 450 people have pulmonary illnesses that are linked to e-cigarette use including some in West Virginia.  They are also asking practitioners to help them find out if there are other illnesses yet to be identified that are linked to vaping.  Five people have been confirmed dead.  

These devices are relatively new to the market.  Though there have been patents going back to the 1930s for vaporizers for this purpose, the appearance of people sucking on a device that looks like a USB drive and blowing small puffs of the almost odorless vapor is relatively new. Since former United States Surgeon General C. Everett Koop warned the United States of the dangers of smoking cigarettes they’ve become less cool.  Still, close to one in four West Virginians is a daily tobacco user.  Companies like Altria are shifting their supply by buying the technology to create e-cigarettes and are advertising them as the new cool and less harmless that the cigarettes they have sold for years.  The CDCs release tells us otherwise. 

In my AHP interview with Dr. Sherri Young, a public health physician and author, we discussed the dangers of vaping and how we truly do not know what happens to those who do.  States are now outlawing the flavors like cotton candy and bubble gum that most in public health believe to be marketed to minors.  Right now, we don’t know what happens if you’re a life long vaper.  Dr. Young says parents should be talking with their children.

You can see the CDC’s information here: Look for my interview, available on September 9th, with Dr. Young on the Appalachian Health Podcast available wherever you get great content or at

WVSMA Annual Meeting in the Books

WVSMA Annual Meeting August 25, 2019
The Greenbrier Resort
White Sulphur Springs, WV

The West Virginia State Medical Association finished its Annual Meeting last week.  As the largest gathering of physicians in the State, it left participants energized and ready to work.  The conference goers were more amazed by the star studded lineup than the spectacular Greenbrier Resort or majestic Greenbrier Valley.  This year’s theme was “The Year of Giving Back”.

The Friday morning sessions began with a welcome video from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin who thanked the WVSMA for working with him on the recent Jesse’s Law followed by Dr. Lorenzo Pence and Dr. Bob Foster who gave informative talks on Osteopathic Medicine in the 21st century.  Followed by the wildly popular “Lunch with the Deans” who gave updates on what West Virignia’s medical schools are working on right now and how they work together.  On top of other Friday topics, West Virginia’s Legislative Leadership addressed the crowd and took even the toughest of questions from the WVSMA membership.

Congresswoman Carol Miller opened the Saturday session that had a panel discussion on public health issues in West Virginia.  Dr. Rahul Gupta of the March of Dimes updated the membership on maternal & child health.  The afternoon’s festivities were punctuated by Dr. Sherri Young.  Dr. Young gave a riveting speech after being introduced by this video:  She brought tears and a standing ovation.  There were other presentations in the afternoon, including Dr. Brooke Buckley’s discussion on emotional intelligence.  The education sessions ended on a true high note with a keynote address by Dr. Peter Salk on public health issues.  

The culmination of the event was the Mako Medical Gala that had Dr. Patrice Harris address the crowd. Dr. Harris is a Mercer County native, WVU Graduate, and current President of the American Medical Association. Justice Evan Jenkins administered the oath of office to WVSMA’s 2019-2020 leadership including Dr. Young who took the reigns as President.

WVSMA Annual Meeting


In just a few short days, the West Virginia State Medical Association will gavel in its Annual Meeting at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV.  This is the premier event for medicine and public health in West Virginia each year.  It brings together physicians from all specialities to learn and debate the health policy topics of the day.

The two day event begins on Friday, with Dr. Lorenzo Pence giving an lecture on the historic issue of Single GME Accreditation.  Later in the day the Deans of all three medical schools in West Virginia will present and answer questions from the audience on issues from medical education to social determinants of health.  Leadership from the West Virignia legislature will be on hand to discuss current topics in health policy.  Other topics for Friday sessions include osteopathic manipulation and health homes.

The event continues Saturday with nationally known speakers like Dr. Brooke Buckley of Meritus Health, Dr. Rahul Gupta from the March of Dimes, and vaccine expert Dr. Peter Salk.  Topics on Saturday include vaccines, maternal mortality, tobacco policy, emotional intelligence, and heart health.  The day will culminate in a gala sponsored by Mako Medical where AMA President and West Virginia native Dr. Patrice Harris will speak and Dr. Sherri Young being inaugurated as President of the Association.

This event is the premier gathering of the house of medicine in West Virginia. Registration is still available by going to