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Media Advisory: “Protect Patients First” National Tour in Charleston today

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A national coalition of groups representing patients, doctors, nurses and several leading national organizations that advocate for better health care will be in Charleston Thursday morning to highlight concerns all West Virginians should have about health reform proposals being discussed in Congress.


Today’s 10:30 a.m. event at the CAMC Cancer Center is the fourth stop on the “Protect Patients First” (PPF) National Tour. PPF is a national coalition of groups that includes patients, doctors, hospitals and several leading national organizations that are advocating for better health care. The tour, which launched in early June in Cleveland, aims to inform the public and help persuade senators to reject harmful health care proposals under consideration in Washington. The groups want the U.S. Senate to start fresh with new legislation that protects patients from losing affordable insurance coverage.


The groups – including AARP, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, Federation of American Hospitals, March of Dimes and their state affiliates – are urging lawmakers to Protect Patients First, and will address shortcomings in four main areas: affordability of insurance, access to essential care, protection for those on Medicaid, and protections for those with employer-sponsored health insurance. This event is part of a series that organizers are hosting in states across the country.


Previous stops on the national tour have included Cleveland, Denver, and Reno, Nevada, with the events all taking place at local medical facilities.


WHEN:          Thursday, July 13, 2017, 10:30 a.m.


WHERE:      CAMC Cancer Center

                        3415 MacCorkle Ave. SE

                        Charleston, WV



                        LIVE VIDEO COVERAGE: Access the Livestream at A recording will also be made available after the event.


WHO:             Speakers scheduled to participate in the event include:  


Gaylene Miller, State Director, AARP West Virginia

With more than 30 years of professional experience in the field of aging programs and services, Gaylene Miller has served as AARP West Virginia State Director since 2009. Prior to joining the AARP West Virginia staff in 2002, she served as Commissioner of the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services. Gaylene received her undergraduate degree from West Liberty State College and attended graduate school at West Virginia University.


Lora Wilkerson, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

Lora Wilkerson serves as Manager of Covenant House’s Food Pantry in Charleston, WV.  She, like all of those at Covenant House, works with individuals and families in need. At 18 months old, Lora’s granddaughter, Ellie, was diagnosed with cancer.  As a result of Medicaid coverage as well as the other protections made available through the current health care law, Ellie never missed a treatment. Lora is an advocate for affordable and adequate health coverage for cancer patients like Ellie and for all West Virginians.


Debby Smith, American Heart Association

A member of the American Heart Association’s Charleston, West Virginia Metro Board, Debby Smith is a heart survivor who is passionate about sharing her story and has been a part of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign, helping empower women to overcome heart disease – the number one killer of women in America.


Tom and April McLane, American Stroke Association

Tom and April McLane are stroke ambassadors for the American Stroke Association and residents of Charleston, West Virginia. This year, April celebrates her three-year anniversary as a stroke survivor and both are passionate about speaking out for those who cannot due to the impact of stroke.


Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH, President, WV State Medical Association

A practicing internist who also serves as adjunct professor in the department of health policy, management, and Leadership at the West Virginia University School of Public Health and adjunct associate professor at the University of Charleston’s School of Pharmacy, Gupta is the president of the West Virginia State Medical Association. He also serves as West Virginia state health officer and commissioner for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health. He has authored more than 100 scientific publications in medicine and public health and served as a principal investigator for numerous well known clinical trials. He has also served on several national boards such the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO).


Gupta earned a Doctorate of Medicine and subspecialty training in pulmonary medicine from the University of Delhi and completed his internship and residency training at St. Joseph Hospital/Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. Additionally, he earned a Master of Public Health degree in healthcare organization and policy from the University of Alabama-Birmingham.


For more information, contact:


Tom Hunter                                                                                Lori McComas Chaffins, RN

AARP West Virginia                                                                   West Virginia Nurses Association

Phone: 304-807-4287                                                                 Phone: 304-342-1169

E-mail: [email protected]                                                         Email: [email protected]


Ray Carson                                                                               Cindy Pellegrini
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network                     March of Dimes

Phone: 813-349-4479                                                                 Phone: 202-659-1800

E-mail:  [email protected]                                                 Email: [email protected]


Kevin Pauley                                                                             Danielle Veira

American Heart Association                                                       American Diabetes Association

Phone: 681-313-2074                                                                 Phone: 703-253-4843

Email: [email protected]                                                   Email: [email protected]


Marie Watteau                                                                           Joshua Zembik

American Hospital Association                                                   American Medical Association

Phone:  202-626-2351                                                                 Phone: 312-464-4048

E-mail: [email protected]                                                        E-mail: [email protected]




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