Board Highlight: Tom Wilson - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Board Highlight: Tom Wilson

March 31, 2022

Tom’s connection to Health & Medicine began in the early 90s when he worked alongside Quentin Young on the Campaign for Better Health Care (CBHC). As the two staunchest defenders of universal single payer health care on that board, the pair resigned together when CBHC surrendered this as a primary goal, but their work together continued when Tom joined the Health & Medicine board in 1997.

Tom’s commitment to Quentin’s vision continues to shine through in his passion for single payer health care and advocacy for disability rights. As part of the board, Tom enjoys engaging in policy discussions, participating in and attending forums, and gaining insight from his colleagues on the board into the many problems in our health care environment and a view of what local institutions and advocates are doing to address these issues.

From his disability policy work to his deep experience in providing home care (having done many hours home care work for his partner and other friends), Tom offers a crucial perspective on the Health & Medicine board. After retiring from Access Living in 2018, Tom continues to follow his passions in health care policy work concerning people with disabilities, health care organizing, specialized in home care, and long term care advocacy through his work on the board. He works with ADAPT (a national grass-roots community that uses civil disobedience and other forms of advocacy to focus on freeing people from institutionalization and upholding strong community support), The Alliance for Community Services, PPE for HSP,  Jane Adams Senior Caucus, and the Illinois Single Payer Coalition, where he previously served as President of the Board), ALL of US, Chicago CHEC, and Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities.

He strongly believes that health care justice is intrinsic to fighting racism, sexism, and ableism and achieving equality, inclusion, and respect for all.

“Disability rights are often after thoughts or at the bottom of many agendas,” Tom says. “People with disabilities encounter great discrimination and often face extreme poverty, abysmal unemployment rates, and unequal education.” The pandemic has served to shine light on the common disparities in health care and the bureaucratic and paternalistic systems that disregard recipients’ desires and needs. “They are seen as people who can be thrown into institutions against their will. The need for alternatives has been a disability issue for over 40 years, yet nearly half the deaths from the pandemic in Illinois have happened in congregate settings.”

Although victories in this field have been slow and difficult to achieve, he is proud of his achievements over the years helping people trapped in nursing homes and other institutions escape to homes and community services and providing emergency backup home care workers for people living in the community whose scheduled workers are unable to show. Given the slow work and many long standing challenges the disability community faces, Tom emphasizes the need to always stand with activists for disability rights and work to link their struggles with the struggles of all for equality and dignity.

Outside of his many commitments in and outside of Health & Medicine, Tom also loves to travel and has visited parts of Colorado, Mexico, and Europe in the past year.