Dear WPSR Members and Friends,
It is an honor and privilege to be writing you as your incoming chapter President. In 1986 I was “deployed” from University of Rochester to the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima. Studying the biologic effects of radiation at the location of humankind's greatest horror was a life changing experience. Upon my return home I joined PSR and have been a member ever since. The time constraints of medical school, residency, fellowship, a growing practice and then three young children limited my involvement for some time. I continue to practice cardiology full time at Evergreen Health in Kirkland but as the children grew up my wife, Susan, and I became much more engaged in civic activism. The time was right, therefore, when Bruce Amundson asked me to join WPSR's Climate Change and Health Task Force in 2014. Growing increasingly concerned about the threat of climate change on human health, I was looking for a venue to effectively make a difference. This work been tremendously rewarding personally and – thanks to the efforts of all my colleagues on the task force – extremely effective.
We at WPSR continue to take on the greatest threats to human survival – nuclear weapons, economic inequity and climate change – existential risks that cannot be treated in the emergency room, the exam room or the operating room. It feels like we face long odds, but we are making steady progress.
Our nuclear weapons program is set to lead the Washington Against Nuclear Weapons coalition into 2019 and beyond. We aim to have a growing influence on our Members of Congress and are fortunate to have to a Washington Representative, Adam Smith, chairing the critical Armed Services Committee who agrees with us that our nation's nuclear arsenal needs to be dramatically reduced. We are expecting to continue to make significant gains this year.
WPSR will continue to play a vital role as the trusted messenger on the health consequences of climate change in our state. The health frame of reference has been extremely useful to our partners in the Stand Up to Oil, Power Past Fracked Gas, and Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy coalitions. With several climate related bills under consideration in the State legislature and King County's recent ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure, we are set up for some big wins early in 2019.
Grotesque economic inequity is driving an unprecedented decline in life expectancy in our country after decades of improvement. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is breaking down the social fabric of our society. The health consequences of inequity include diabetes, malnutrition, depression, incarceration, and substance abuse. WPSR will continue to advocate for policies that not only improve access to health care but actual access to a healthy life.
The state of our organization is strong. We have talented volunteer and staff leadership in all of our program areas. In order to sustain and grow this strength, we will need to continue to develop as a chapter. My priority as President will be on chapter development: recruiting new members, growing and diversifying our board of directors, and expanding funding for our program work.
We have another area that we will need to focus on in the early months of 2019. Laura Skelton, who has served as our executive director for five years, will be resigning this spring. She graciously gave us plenty of warning and is committed to see us through our upcoming annual dinner and the search process for a new executive director.
It is a testament to Laura’s great leadership and organizational skills that our chapter is no longer dependent on any one person. She built solid organizational structure, hired phenomenal staff, and supported significant growth of our membership and volunteer task forces. We are on very steady footing as a chapter, thanks to her work. This positions us well as an attractive organization during our recruitment for a replacement.
Thank you all for your commitment to our work. Looking forward to all we will accomplish in 2019.
Mark R. Vossler, MD