Capitol sees a day of protests and politics

Doctors rally to support health-care standards and smoking limits

Jenna Ross

More than 100 Minnesota doctors dressed in white lab coats ascended the Capitol steps Thursday to check up on legislators.

Approximately 175 medical professionals and students attended the Minnesota Medical Association’s “Day at the Capitol” to bring health-care issues such as banning cigarettes in bars and public buildings and health-care standards to the forefront of state policy.

The event’s organizers and lawmakers said physicians’ voices can impact legislation.

“We see people all the time, but frankly, we don’t see people n white smocks all that often,” Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said.

One of six legislators who spoke to the group, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, asked for the physicians’ support of a statewide smoking ban in public spaces.

He said medical professionals’ lobbying will help in the uphill battle of getting the bill passed.

“It’s a tough fight,” Dibble said. “Big tobacco really runs the show around here.”

University medical student William Nicholson said that while the proposed tobacco tax increase is important, the physicians did not focus on the issue.

“At this point, it’s more ‘wouldn’t it be nice,’ ” Nicholson said. “We’re preoccupied with medical crises.”

Each of the issues discussed is significant, but the speaking up itself is most important, Nicholson said.

“Patients are fired up, lawyers are fired up, pharmaceutical companies are fired up – it’s time we got fired up too,” he said. “We need to get in the ring.”

University professor and physician John Tulloch said he came to better understand state policy makers.

“I hope to get acquainted with my legislators and see where they stand,” Tulloch said. “The organizers gave us topics to cover, things to say, but I may stray a bit from that.”