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Loose Cannons and Yoda

This week I had the pleasure of accompanying WVU President Gordon Gee to Charleston for a visit to the place my dad, Don Marsh, worked for most of his adult life – The Charleston Gazette.

Publisher Betty Chilton, vice president Susan Shumate, editors Rob Byers and Jim Haught, and health reporter Lydia Nuzum warmly greeted me. They were gracious, engaging, and committed to moving the state forward.

I met many of them in my dad’s old office. He was the editor of the Gazette. Although the pictures and the decorations on the walls were different, being there brought back a flood of memories. I will share one.

My dad was a controversial guy who loved debate. Under the leadership of the late Ned Chilton, the Gazette proudly demonstrated “sustained outrage” for social causes. As part of this, long ago, my dad threw some hand grenades over the wall at WVU, causing a reporter for The Daily Athenaeum to respond that he was a “loose cannon.” Gordon has said that many of these grenades occurred around the time WVU was spending for the medical school and medical complex. The grenades seemed to diminish when I was admitted to the WVU School of Medicine.

My dad wore the “loose cannon” title as a badge of honor. He even framed the DA story over his desk at the Gazette.

He was proud to be recognized for “sustained outrage” on social issues. To me, this approach reflected his intense caring – for the benefit of the state’s people.

I share concern over the state’s position and population. We have among the top 10 expenditures for healthcare per citizen. Of the $4.2 billion state health budget, $3.3 billion is for Medicaid payments. Despite this spend, West Virginia ranks 44th on healthcare statistics. It is interesting that in the Dartmouth database, generally the more a state spends on healthcare, the worse its outcome metrics.

My dad died 15 years ago. But I feel his spirit flow into me as commitment to take up the cause that he and my mom left for me – to contribute to changing the destiny and trajectory of our beautiful state, its strong and humble people, and our collective future.

Accompanied by Gordon Gee, who exemplifies noble purpose and service, and surrounded by a palpable presence of the things for which my dad and mom stood, and leaders of the Gazette, I was brought full circle.

The time is now, the purpose is noble, and the talent is present in the state to change our future. Change health, offer hope, and rediscover the magic and the promise of an abundant West Virginia.

It is a dream worth realizing and working for – together – West Virginia University, Charleston Area Medical Center, Marshall University, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Monongalia General Hospital, the Wheeling hospitals, our state’s leaders, and thousands of others in every community who work to improve the health of their neighbors and families.

Can we be successful? I am brought back to the wizened Yoda of Star Wars.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

It’s our choice and opportunity to do today.