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Politicizing the Greater Good

South Carolina has a long history of making destructive economic decisions based on regional jealousy. Our regional naval-gazing has it roots in our very founding when Charleston suppressed the number of Upstate delegates to our state constitutional convention in 1790. We have been fighting ever since.

 Even now, when our economic situation requires unity of purpose, we succumb to regional jealousy. We see it in the opposition when different parts of the state try to attract a BMW, Boeing or Southwest Airlines. We heard it in the recent defeat of the Amazon incentive package where real jobs were lost. We are witnessing it now in the opposition to the expansion of Greenville’s medical school.

 Do not be mistaken, our medical school expansion will create economic opportunity for years to come. More importantly, it will be the foundation for the development of specialized centers treating a multitude of ailments. A good example can be seen in the movement disorder center currently being considered at Greenville Hospital System, a project in which I have great personal interest.

 Like actor Michael J. Fox and political writer Michael Kinsley, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at a relatively young age. My diagnosis followed hard upon the death of my first child from hemophilia complications. In the space of three months, I became acutely aware of the need for specialized healthcare in the Upstate.

 Upon my diagnosis around six years ago, I was referred to Chapel Hill for treatment until my neurologist took a new position in Philadelphia. She then referred me to an excellent doctor at MUSC who I see twice a year. Fortunately, I have done well with my condition in spite of the limited contact with my doctor.

 I am aware that I am not the only medical traveler from Greenville. Others in town travel to Duke or Emory depending upon their condition. I know parents who regularly drive to the hemophilia treatment center in Columbia so their children can receive comprehensive care. While we have fine doctors in Greenville, we travel to benefit from the advanced medical specialists found in these other cities.

 I understand the need for specialized treatment centers, not just for Parkinson’s, but for a host of conditions. I know that patients benefit from more frequent consultations with related specialists who can advise on lifestyle choices, exercise, diet and other preventative actions. I believe that when patients and caregivers gain more control over the disease, they gain hope.

The Greenville Hospital System and USC School of Medicine have committed the resources to make the medical school expansion a reality. However, legislators from other parts of the state have expressed concern over our ability to support a medical school. They even tried to form a study committee – a sure way to mothball any idea.

Fortunately, our future rests not with the General Assembly but with the Commission on Higher Education who will vote on this issue in May. The Greenville legislative delegation has actively supported the expansion. We are hopeful that the Commission will affirm our request. They should know by now that when Greenville commits to a project, we do it right. We understand what can be accomplished with unity of purpose. We know how to expand the greater good.