The only reason you’re reading this essay by me is because of a man named Stan Brock, – whose work inspired me to leave my old job as an insurance executive. Few people in my life have been as consequential as Stan. And he’s been even more consequential to thousands of others.
A remarkable movie about him has just been released, and I hope you’ll watch it. “Medicine Man: The Stan Brock Story” is screening nationwide until April 20 as part of the Cleveland International Film Festival and it’s in competition for the festival’s Global Health Prize.
Stan, who starred in the popular television series Wild Kingdom when I was a kid, went on to found an organization called Remote Area Medical in the 1980’s to help fly doctors to remote parts of the globe. He was shocked when folks from the United States started begging him to bring free medical care to their communities.
Now most of RAM’s pop-up medical clinics are held in the US, not overseas in undeveloped countries. I went to see one a few years ago on a trip back home to Tennessee. It was at a county fairground a few miles from where I grew up. The highway I took to that clinic would be my Road to Damascus.
At the time, I was heading corporate communications for the big health insurer Cigna. A big part of my job was to persuade Americans that we didn’t need health care reform, that we had the best health care system in the world.
When I saw Americans lined up in the rain, waiting to get care in barns and animal stalls, I had an emotional breakdown – and an epiphany. I knew instantly that I was part of the problem and that I would have to figure out how to begin making amends for the harm I had caused.
I ultimately became a whistleblower, pulling the curtain back in testimony before Congress about how for-profit health insurance companies really operate. I had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Stan. He became my hero and good friend.
The documentary “Medicine Man” traces Stan’s journey from wrestling anacondas on Wild Kingdom to becoming the health care provider of last resort for far too many Americans. It also offers a unique perspective on the U.S. health care crisis as seen from the front lines of RAM’s volunteers.
You can check out the trailer here. I encourage you to watch it and then watch the full movie. The winner of the Global Health Prize will be decided by audience vote during the Cleveland Film Festival. Please watch it, and vote for Stan.