So, I was minding my business doing school work at home last Monday, when I looked at my phone and noticed a message on Facebook messenger from a random gentleman that I had never heard of before. He introduced himself as Dr. Wilson Lam, a member of a group of doctors called Doctors for Change out of Houston.
He was reaching out to me not only because he is a member of a group of physicians dedicated to healthcare advocacy and involved in legislative work in Texas, but apparently, the chair of the House Public Health Committee. Representative Senfronia Thompson of Houston had seen the feature article on me and the work I do in the Texas Medical Association magazine (December 2018), and wanted me to testify in favor of her House Bill 10 being proposed this Texas Legislative session!
Naturally, my first reaction was “Yeah right, who is this and how did he find me?” I ran and shared the news with my small family, and their reaction was different. My 14yr-old son sprang into action and in a few seconds, he yelled out “mom it’s legit!” There is a group called Doctors for Change, and there is a Rep. Thompson, and indeed, Dr. Lam does exist!
Soon after the discoveries, I responded to Dr. Lam’s message. One week, a few phone calls and a few more emails later, I find myself driving up I-35 North, to W 15th street to the Texas Medical Association building on my way to testify at the Capitol!
Me? Little me? Yes, me! Why not me? Why not a doctor who quit her $200K/year job to speak publicly and spread awareness for bullying, child, teen and young adult depression and suicide? Why not a pediatrician who lost a beloved 15 year old depressed patient to suicide? Why not one who has had multiple patients with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and attempts who finally wants to put a stop to it by speaking against it?
Well, I did…proudly. I was nervous at the start, I have never done anything like that before, but once I got in the zone, I was in my element. I spoke from my heart, with passion, with expertise, with love. House Bill 10 focuses on mental health access for minorities, spreading awareness for mental health issues, and increasing funding for mental health research. All these are right up my alley.
Early this morning, I looked in my inbox, and there was a link to the entire thing…please watch and see, my segment starts at the 32-minute mark. How do you think I did? I am so proud of myself and so happy to announce that I was invited to join the pediatric society of Texas as a result. I was also invited to return to testify in the future! I am so happy to share my very first experience with you!
Here’s to many more and to the abolition of mental health issues and suicide in children and in the world at large.
Dr. Uchenna Umeh is a board certified pediatrician and speaker on youth suicide. She lives in San Antonio TX, and enjoys writing personal stories. She can be found on her website teenalive.com and followed on Instagram @askdoctorlulu