Disruptive Women is pleased to introduce you to our May Man of the Month—Charlie Inlander. You can read all about Charlie’s remarkable career and learn from his astute insights and observations as Glenna Crooks sits down and talks to Charlie. Enjoy the conversation. Let us know if you agree with Charlie’s answers.
I’d like everyone to meet Charles “Charlie” Inlander. Charlie is currently an international health marketing, media and communications consultant and was formerly the President of the nonprofit People’s Medical Society.
He is a faculty lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine, an adjunct faculty member at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, a Fellow of the Institute for Science, Law and Technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology and on Public Radio International’s MARKETPLACE and has appeared on programs including Oprah, Donahue, Today, Good Morning America, Dateline NBC, 48 Hours, 20/20, Geraldo, NBC Evening News, CBS Evening News, ABC Evening News, and The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.
He is a founder of the Civil Justice Foundation and serves, or has served, on the boards of Consumers for Civil Justice, the National League for Nursing and the Pennsylvania League for Nursing, and advisory boards of the Citizen Advocacy Center, the Primary Care Management Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, HealthMarket and Bottom Line/Personal publications. He was a columnist in Nursing Economics and a contributing editor for Medical Self-Care magazine. He has authored over a hundred books for health care consumers and articles regularly appear in such publications as The New York Times, Glamour, and Boardroom.
Charlie and I share Midwestern, Chicago-area roots, but that’s not why I like him so much. Yes, he’s smart, but he’s also nice. I mean that. He’s nice. Charlie and I don’t agree on everything but I know when we disagree, that’s he’s coming from “a good place” of true advocacy origins. There is not a mean bone in his body – which, above all, is probably the secret of his effectiveness. Charlie can deliver the toughest messages you might not want to hear, but you’ll like him while he’s doing it. There is something wonderful in his heart that shines through.
I hope you enjoy meeting him in this interview as much I’ve enjoyed knowing him.
It is so great to be able to talk with you for this Disruptive Women forum. We’ve never had a dull conversation and I know you won’t disappoint me this time, either. You were involved in advocacy long before me, I’ve learned much from you and want to talk with you about three issues today: first, your experience as an advocate; second, how today’s advocacy is different; and third, about your views on the current state of play in national health care today.
First, about your experience in advocacy generally.
Q. It’s an ‘interesting time.’ You’re the advocate’s advocate. What’s your advice to advocates for patients today?
A. Put yourself in the patient/consumer’s shoes. I learned at a young age that my experiences and views were not always the same as those I wanted to help. For example, I came from an upper middle class family and grew up in the nicest suburbs of Chicago. As a teenager in the early 1960’s I was involved with the civil rights movement, going into the inner city to work with kids in those neighborhoods. We would help them with school work, volunteer at community building programs, etc. But I saw that most of the time, we were doing the work for them instead of teaching them skills we had. And, of course, we left each day and went back to our suburbs. They still had to cope with their environment. From that, I realized that the most effective advocates are those who empower the people for whom they advocate – teaching them the skills, know-how or information necessary to take on the challenges they face.
Then in 1965, when I came to Washington, DC for college, I became involved with civil rights issues there and the anti-war movement. At the time, I thought my best skills were as an effective organizer and speaker and tried to pass those along. I never felt that just going to a march or protest meeting was enough. I believe that if you are taking on a cause, your job is to help win over as many supporters as possible so that even if you are not there, they can fight the battle on their own.