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Doctor walking to D.C. to bring message of health care reform

July 22, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

CEARFOSS -- Ogan Gurel said he could have e-mailed his congressional representatives stating his views about health care reform, but he figured he would simply get an automatic reply acknowledging his message had been received.

And that wasn't good enough.

"I said I would walk from Chicago to (Washington) D.C. That's a statement," Gurel said Wednesday.

Gurel, a physician from Chicago, is walking 700 miles from his hometown to Washington to bring attention to the health care reform issue being debated in the nation's capital.

Along the way, Gurel is collecting stories from people about health care problems they are facing and he hopes to meet with members of Congress to share the experiences.

Gurel, who has been walking since June 27, said he has talked to people in coffee houses, gas stations and stores to record their health care experiences and is posting the stories on his blog at http://walk4healthcare.org.

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After staying with a Bedford, Pa., family Monday and Tuesday night, Gurel on Wednesday afternoon crossed into Washington County while walking along Cearfoss Pike.

He stopped for an interview along the road in the Cearfoss area, relating some of the stories he has collected from people.

Gurel said the worst stories he heard were people being discharged early from health care facilities due to lack of insurance. Gurel said he could attribute deaths to some of the cases.

Gurel said he also talked to middle-class people who were struggling for their medications, sometimes relying on free samples from doctors.

Gurel said most of the people he talked to allowed him to use their names, even though the stories contained rather personal information.

"They really want some change," Gurel said.

Gurel studied at Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, completed a surgical internship at Massachusetts General Hospital and has worked as a health care consultant.

Gurel said he has a media person and a logistical person who help him with his journey. Gurel said he gets help from anyone he can to move a pack of personal items along the route and he has been battling blisters as he walks about 20 miles a day. The only thing Gurel was carrying Wednesday was a small backpack with an American flag sticking out of it.

"Twenty miles a day is pretty grueling. So I need the rest," said Gurel, who was planning to stay in a Hagerstown hotel Wednesday night.

Gurel said he planned to reach Frederick, Md., on Thursday and arrive in Washington on Sunday.

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