Sharon Meieran: A Citizen Doctor for Oregon in Transition

Nova Newcomer

Especially in the uninsured and underinsured population, there's a critical need for inclusion of women's health care services. We see advanced cervical cancer rates that should not be seen in this country. — Sharon Meieran, Candidate for HD 36

Sharon Meieran: A Citizen Doctor for Oregon in Transition

Sharon Meieran with her husband and two children

In public policy, it's hard to maintain both innocence and seriousness. For today's emergency room doctor, it's hard to maintain any innocence at all. House District 36 candidate Sharon Meieran strikes the balance between these two dichotomies -- an idealist looking to serve the greater good and pragmatist seeking to advocate for real solutions to crises in our community.

Meieran is no stranger to these — she sees them every day in the emergency room. But this is no one issue candidate. In fact, Meieran deftly underscores that the lack of the safety net in our community as a whole has left staff in hospital emergency rooms trying to patch one together. Meieran sees the cumulative impact of the recession and rising health care costs in her work: substance abuse problems, violence in homes and our neighborhoods, lack of access to quality food and nutrition, under and uninsured patients coming for care only when problems are acute, and the list goes on and on. Many doctors might be satisfied with applying their practical expert knowledge to solve the immediate health problems at hand. Meieran, however, sees a system near its breaking point at just the same time that Governor Kitzhaber and the Oregon Legislature are setting out a vision for the future of health care in our state.

Meieran's decision to run for office mirrors her unique path of deciding to go to medical school. After graduating from law school and working as an intellectual property lawyer, Meieran felt the tug of wanting something more. She didn't feel fulfilled and wanted to be helping people more directly. She thought that diving into juvenile justice advocacy as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and volunteering for a children's advocacy crisis line would fulfill that need, but it only intensified her need for a change. This advocacy work led her to consider Medical School to pursue psychiatric care for children with mental health issues.

But Medical School opened up a whole new world for her — once she did a rotation in the ER, she was hooked. Meieran says of her first experience, "You never saw the same thing twice. It was energizing and interesting." Working in a challenging residency program in Cincinnatti, Meieran learned quickly that she was not one to accept the status quo and often found herself in trouble for speaking her mind on ways to do things better.

After completing her residency along with her husband, whom she met in medical school, Meieran and her family relocated to Portland. "I had spent a lot of time in Portland throughout my adult life and I just felt like I belonged and was supposed to be here," she says of their relocation.

Though working in the ER and raising two young kids keeps her busy, Meieran also currently serves as President of the Oregon College of Emergency Physicians, on the Executive Board of the Medical Society of Metropolitan Portland, and on the Oregon Medical Association’s Legislative Committee. Meieran has also been a leader on legislative efforts (both testifying in Salem and authoring an Op-ed for the Oregonian) for prescription drug monitoring, abuse and misuse being an increasing public health crisis.

And Meieran is committed to fiercely opposing any legislation that imposes on a woman's right to choose. She says, "Especially in the uninsured and underinsured population, there's a critical need for inclusion of women's health care services. We see advanced cervical cancer rates that should not be seen in this country. And not being able to choose when they will become a parent is the #1 reason for women to fall into poverty, so they are the ones who desperately need access to services like Planned Parenthood." She supports the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health's "One Key Question" — "Do you want to become pregnant in the next year?" She sees it purely as a matter of health, simply a standard conversation between physician and patient. As a physician, she has the unique opportunity of removing the fear and rhetoric for patients around this often-loaded issue and simply walking them through answers to their own questions about their health while she does what she's supposed to do — provide high quality care.

But it's not just her experiences as a doctor, which have led her to action in the community. She has also served three terms on the PTA board of her children’s school, where she is now Co-President.

Her journey to education advocate follows much the same ethic of that of her health care advocacy, but she was able to experience the education system through the lens of recipient rather than provider. Meieran's children attend public school in SW Portland. She says, "You immediately see the parallels— ours is a very fragmented education system where we don't invest in kids early on or on the ongoing development to get them through." She sees significant overlap between those in our education system who are not getting the support they need and the later patient populations that overcrowd the ER. Her vision for education is one of integration and continuity. Says Meieran, "We need to think Pre-K all the way through higher education and providing vocational training and alternate paths." And she says our woes in education are not just a delivery issue, they are a funding and revenue issue. The challenge she says is that "though most everyone she talks to on the doorstep is willing to pay more, they want to be sure the money goes to the right thing."

Meieran finds knocking on doors to be the most inspiring part of the process of running. She says, "It makes me feel like I do have the right priorities and the things I am passionate about and can bring my experience to bear on, are the things that are on people's minds. People really do want to engage. When you talk about health care (or education), it's the same thing, everyone has a story…it's really moving that people share these experiences with me."

Though her work requires her to lead with her head (something she attributes to her father's insistence on always making systems work more efficiently and effectively), Meieran is driven by her heart (her artist mother's service-oriented ethic instilling the need to take care of other people). HD 36 is blessed with a choice between two talented and committed public servants in the Democratic primary (and Emerge Oregon graduates!). Sharon Meieran's unique background and her balance of idealism and pragmatism are what is needed at this time of transformation in Oregon.


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    Best wishes to Dr. Meieran! ER docs see the untreated and excluded from preventive and ongoing medical care. It's how Gov. Kitz got his motivation for public service.

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    I would just add it is vital that progressive women represent us in public leadership now. Especially now when the GOP and its candidate,Mitt Romney, want to deny leadership and health care to women. His own wife(his official spokesperson on women's issues) said yesterday that of course women don't deserve equal pay for equal work. That's Mitt Romney and the GOP's program for women.

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    Sharon is a great candidate for District 36. She has, as Nova says, a great mix of the ideal and the practical. As Oregonians, we know that we cannot afford to get it wrong on health care policy. Poorly crafted policy is just too costly. Better to have people who can craft solid legislation and also know the health care system intimately. Sharon is offering us that and a whole lot more. Sharon Meieran is definitely someone to watch in this race and also to keep an eye on over the coming years.

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    It is now law in Wisconsin that medical doctors will become criminals if they assist women in the administration and monitoring of non-surgical medications that are used to induce abortion. This was done with strong opposition from the Medical Association of Wisconsin. It shows what can happen with just one election where voters are reckless in whom they bring to power, and it shows us here in Oregon how important it is to support progressive women who will stand against such barbarism.

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    Sharon Meieran has my vote. She will represent this district fairly, with a good combination of sensibility and progressive thinking that we need. I am a health care provider, and think that her health care ideas are right on. I am also a constituent that cares about other major issues including education and the environment, and Sharon cares about those things too. Get out the vote on May 15!

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    Great article!! That the Sharon I know and support. Her wisdom, practicality, compassion and ability to build bridges between people will be invaluable in working with a divided legislature in Salem. The day to day experience of parenting, advocacy work, and working in an ER blended with her legal training and comprehensive vision and understanding of policy issues are a fabulous fit for representing our district. You got my vote.

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    Newcomer's article highlights the consistent value based decision making that is integral to Sharon's professional, community and family life. These same ethical standards will serve us well in Salem. I look forward to being one of her constituents.

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    Watching this campaign has been interesting. I voted for Sharon, and support her practical real life wisdom as well as the skills and ability to build bridges that I have witnessed working with her on the Board of the Medical Society of Metropolitan Portland. A passionate parent, community volunteer, advocate for schools and , critical at this juncture of our state and federal conversation around health care and insurance reform, she is an informed, dedicated and articulate voice on the complex business of healing our broken health care system. I know from many discussion that she understands the challenges to change as well as the need to fix how we care for each other's health in Oregon and across the country. Lead on Sharon.

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