Dr. Quentin Young, RIP

I am sad to report the passing of Dr. Quentin Young, age 93. Dr. Young was a fixture in Chicago and in Hyde Park. He was physician to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to a rising politician named Barack Obama, Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, and to many others in Chicago’s progressive community. He was, for decades, a passionate and prominent advocate for single-payer health care.

Dr. Young was also a critical figure in addressing Chicago’s disgusting medical care discrimination and segregation, which so harmed the lives and health of African-Americans in this city. In 1951(!) he helped to lead the Committee to End Discrimination in Chicago Medical Institutions, which began chipping away at the explicit racial segregation that pertained in Chicago. He helped provide medical care for civil rights activists down South during Freedom Summer and in Chicago itself.

Young had an acerbic wit. A reactionary councilman responded to Young’s rumored appointment as Chairman of Medicine at Cook County Hospital with the comment “Over my dead body.” Young simply responded: “It’s a deal.”

I didn’t know him all that well. We had coffee a few times.  He was blessed to be vigorous and sharp well into his later years. He took me to task for my incremental views on health reform. He was very sweet to my daughter when we shared a lovely lunch four or five years ago.

He is missed by many, including me.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.