Notes from the Southern Heartland – A New Bimonthly Column in the Regional Press

Gentle Reader – Starting next Sunday, 23 July, I will begin a twice monthly column in the regional press  – The DailyItem and related papers – in this area of PA. Everything published will be here as well. Please read and comment. Criticize ! We are stronger together than separate.

Welcome to the new column on healthcare and health policy. I use this initial space to explain who I am, how I got here, and what you can expect if you walk this path with me every other Sunday.


As the poet says:

I am a man from across the ocean, who has come to stay with you, who speaks a different language, and who walks on different legs.


In a way, that’s me. We are immigrants from the Middle East; my father and his brothers were Navy and Army during WW II – dad on the USS Yorktown – mom a Coast Guard’s Woman. My brother and sisters all dreamed – and achieved – the American Dream. Our three children are adults in service to humanity.


My education was courtesy the people of the State of California: University of California, San Diego and UC Davis in medicine, followed by residencies at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and the University of Florida. I came to this area of Pennsylvania after almost 3 decades at UF in Gainesville, and have worked both in and outside of our country, primarily in academic and not-for-profit organizations; I am presently employed with a hospital system in our area.


Medicine called to me as a young man; it was a way to make a difference in the world, to live a life of meaning and authenticity, to care for our people. Decades later, I feel no differently.


Trained in several specialties and practicing Critical Care Medicine, I none-the-less am drawn to public health and health policy. For, in practicing medicine over decades, it has become clear that economic and political decisions made in centers of power have great impact on the well-being of my neighbors, my patients. Thus, it is my intention to focus this column on these, as well as other health-related issues that impact the people of our State and Country; these are the people for whom I work. To paraphrase another poet, long dead after the first September 11th, I will speak and write about “issues of our time and destiny”. What else can one do ?


What should you expect from me ? Firstly, each of us are entitled to our opinions and interpretations. We are not, however, entitled to our own facts; I will back my comments with data; where I opine, it will be clear. I will not attempt to hide my position on issues for, as Jim Hightower, the former Texas Agricultural Commissioner once said, there only two things in the middle-of-the-road: yellow lines and dead armadillos; I have no interest in laying claim to either of these.


Secondly, you may expect that I will comment upon the contentious issues of our time related to healthcare. While these are somewhat complex, they are truly not as difficult to understand as might seem to be the case given the battles and obfuscation ongoing in Washington DC. We will examine, in the first instance, what the legislators claim to be doing, and then determine if, based upon their actions, they are doing something different than what they say. Where a meaningful discrepancy is found, comment will be made.


Finally, in addition to having been trained in our United States, I’ve also worked outside of our borders in places as disparate as Latin America and parts of Europe. Soon, I will deploy to Africa as a member of Médecins Sans Frontières [Doctors Without Borders] and from my posting – likely a Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Aweil, South Sudan, I will report back to you the situation of the people for whom we care.


Why ? Because, in the final analysis, as I learned long ago, my people are you, are Pennsylvanians, are Americans, are Latins, Greeks, Turks, and Africans. Indeed, as has been said, we are all children under the same sun. Much of our interest focuses on what’s happening in Central Pennsylvania; but none of us can be indifferent to the world surrounding us.


Whether you agree or disagree with my writing, the success of this column will be determined by whether we generate discussion and debate.


Disagree ! Argue ! Send me a note; I will do my best to respond.


If we come away from a good discussion having learned something, then this column will have been worthwhile.


I look forward to seeing you every other Sunday.




You may follow me on Twitter @ajlayon and you may review this and other materials on my quasi-health blog which is also entitled Notes from the Southern Heartland []


Final 16 July, 2017



About AJ Layon

AJ Layon was, for 28 years, at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in the Division of Critical Care Medicine, in Gainesville, FL. For the approximately 10 years until September 2011, he was Professor and Chief of Critical Care Medicine at UF; In September of 2011 he became System Director and Co-Chairman of Critical Care Medicine in PA; this ended in 2017. He served as a Physician in the Surgical Group with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) through 2018 and is presently an intensivist in Florida, struggling through the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. While his interests are primarily related to health care, health care reform, and ethical issues, as a citizen of our United States and our world, he will occasionally opine on issues of our "time and destiny". Follow on Twitter @ajlayon
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2 Responses to Notes from the Southern Heartland – A New Bimonthly Column in the Regional Press

  1. Toby larsson says:

    Looking forward to your views.

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