Member Spotlight: Martin Mendelson

Update: Esteemed colleague and activist Martin Mendelson passed away in 2023. The MultDems offer condolences to his family and friends.

In this archived 2022 Member Spotlight, Martin Mendelson, MD, PhD, shared why he was active as a Multnomah County Democrat, serving on the Education and Basic Rights study groups, and on the PRLC. He was a Precinct Committee Person for more than two years. Martin got his start as a professor of physiology, teaching basic neurophysiology. After 16 years, he earned an MD and arrived in Portland for a residency in family medicine. After several years of private practice in St. Helens, he returned to professorships at UC Davis Family Medicine, then University of Washington Family Medicine. After an informatics fellowship at the CDC, he consulted for hospitals and public health departments and returned to teaching in the School of Public Health at UW., where he was a clinical professor. Martin was also on the Family Medicine faculty at OHSU.

Martin Mendelson working in the lab, 1998

In this 2022 interview, he shared “Why I Am a Democrat” for the blog:

Why did you become involved in the Democratic Party of Multnomah County?

While overseas, watching what was happening after Trump came to power, I began to feel that the Democratic Party had totally blown its responsibility to our people. As one who was born and raised in New York, I’d long felt that Hilary Clinton was a carpet-bagger from Arkansas who had no history in New York when she got elected to the Senate seat. The national party ought not to have nominated her in the first place. That was what motivated me to get involved in Democratic politics at this level – the hope that from here I could have some slight influence over the national committee. 

Why do you think it’s important to become involved in the Democratic Party at the local level?

I’ve also become more aware of how the Republicans have strategically moved to control all levels of voting, from school boards to state legislatures and everything in between. They may even control enough to seize the election next year and in ’24. That specter ought to motivate everyone to get involved to safeguard the integrity of our elections. Of course, once I was involved I realized that there are other issues to be addressed at the local and state level.

What are some of the priorities for our state and county this year?

They fall into two categories: healthcare and education. As a family physician I’ve had to work in an environment polluted by commercial insurance, whose only goal is profit – not the health of people. I want to see national health care, supported by taxation, run as efficiently as the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare run their programs, and covering every single US resident. I want to stop big tobacco from hooking our kids with flavored vapes. I want to see public education, which I regard as the foundation for an informed and judicious electorate, fully funded from pre-K to graduate school. I want to put a stop to private, for-profit companies siphoning off public monies while they under-perform the public school system, even though we starve the latter. Think of what public education could be like if we gave it all the resources it needs.

What is making you hopeful right now?

That the Supreme Court majority may well have not considered that their latest abomination regarding Roe v Wade might just anger the majority of Americans, who support a woman’s right to her body, so much that Republicans will be trashed in the coming election. How deliciously ironic that would be.

What advice can you provide to our Democrats in Multnomah County?

Get out and push our members to vote, and get their friends and neighbors to do the same. Remind them of what we’re likely to experience if Trumpists gain control.

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