After long careers as physicians at Akron Children’s Hospital, Drs. Jeff and Ellen Kempf are continuing their life’s work of lifting up the needs of children by promoting civic engagement and the importance of voting.
“As pediatric providers, we represent those who can’t vote,” Jeff said. “Children have no political clout, and only we can be their voice.”
Dr. Jeff Kempf retired last year as an emergency room physician and director of the hospital’s global health program. Dr. Ellen Kempf retired a few years earlier as an Akron Children’s pediatrician. Both have a passion for helping underserved children in this country and around the world. They have made many trips to Haiti with Akron Children’s nurses, residents and physicians to help establish the hospital’s affiliation with St. Damien’s Pediatric Hospital in Port-au-Prince to improve health care for children there.
In pediatric healthcare, they said, we see firsthand the issues that children and families are dealing with. These include insufficient access to affordable medical care and all the problems that arise from poverty, food insecurity, unsafe housing, substance abuse and other challenges.
For our most vulnerable children, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the possibility that they will fall further behind, and all children are at risk for emotional and behavioral issues from the social and educational disruptions that have upended their lives.
Both of these retired physicians have been actively involved in politics throughout their lives and now have more time to devote to fulfilling their civic responsibilities. Jeff’s father was the mayor of his hometown, and he was raised to understand the importance of having a civic voice.
“I was always proud of supporting my father and being a part of the process,” Jeff said.
Ellen shared that they also raised their children to be politically engaged, and she remembers the whole family being involved. “Our children would help their grandfather campaign door-to-door when they were young,” she said.
Jeff and Ellen feel strongly that children are our future, and they are encouraging everyone to consider the needs of children at the ballot box. “We must vote for those we serve and support those who will put their best interests first. It’s not just, ‘what’s in it for me,’” said Jeff.
The candidates we elect make decisions that impact our children’s education, their ability to access health care and how we address the poverty that impacts one of every five children in Ohio.
“It’s important to be sure you are registered to vote and that your information is current,” Ellen said. You also need to understand the issues, know the policy positions of the candidates and then vote for those who support children. “Together we determine our future,” she said.
Both agree that if we don’t vote for our children, no one else will.
Norman Christopher, MD, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and the Dr. Noah Miller Chair in Pediatric Medicine, agrees that as healthcare providers, we need to be well-informed on issues and look for candidates who will support our mission of improving the lives of children.
Many of our hospital employees are involved with their local schools, social agencies and community governments, and our providers often work with officials to help shape public health policies.
“As pediatric providers, we are often called on to provide expert testimony. We work with elected officials and government agencies to help guide the development of legislation and policies that impact such issues as the opiate crisis, infant mortality, safe sleep practices, smoking prevention and access to mental health,” Norm said.
It’s important for our employees to be involved in their communities and to speak out in support of our patients and our hospital.
Akron Children’s mission is to improve the health of all children by delivering care, training pediatric providers, conducting research, and advocating for policies that will promote children’s health and well-being.
Advocacy is an important part of our mission because children’s issues are often underrepresented. They have no political voice, and funding for children’s programs is at historic lows in our country.
“Now is the time to speak up for children because their health depends on us, and they represent our future,” Norm said.
Election day 2020 is November 3, and early voting started October 6.
If you have questions about voting in Ohio, find answers here.