At last week’s session, as takes place a couple of times each year, the Senate recognized New Hampshire members of the military who died while serving our country.
The specific bill, Senate Bill 367, names a bridge in Londonderry in honor of Lance Corporal Peter J. Sora, Jr, USMC, and Private First Class Eric D. Currier, USMC. Bills honoring military members are special ordered to be the first item on our calendar for that day. That allows family members to come to the Senate, to be seated on the floor of the chamber and not have to wait until we get to their bill later in the day if we followed the normal calendar.
Senator Sharon Carson introduced the parents and family of the soldiers who lived in her district. The Chair of the Transportation, Senator Jim Rausch (Derry), read a statement on the significance of the soldiers’ sacrifice and that by passing SB 367 we would name a bridge in Londonderry the Sora-Currier Memorial Bridge for the men. A roll call vote was requested and each Senator quietly responded with a "yes" as their name was called. The vote was unanimous.
As the family left the chamber they were presented with replicas of the roll call recording chart which each Senator had signed. It only took a few minutes and it did not seem as if we had done enough. The Senate then moved on to the rest of the agenda and our day’s work.
On Saturday, there was a service for Hillary St. Pierre-Ford. Hillary, from Charlestown, who fought cancer from her first diagnosis at the age of 23 in 2006. But in addition to dealing with her cancer, Hillary became a beacon of hope and determination to many, many others. That includes me, especially during the year my late wife, Sandy, fought her own battle with cancer.
I could fill several articles about the short life of Hillary. Her skills at writing, her professional medical training and hopeful reservoir of energy were put to good use in so many ways. One was her legislative and public policy advocacy.
She understood the issues of concern to her. And she was able to focus her energy and message where it could do the most good. I first met Hillary when the Senate and House Finance Committees held a public hearing at River Valley College early in 2007. There were dozens who testified on the state’s budget priorities for the next biennium. But it was Hillary, wearing her surgical mask, who had the greatest impact on the legislators in the room.
Over the years since that initial meeting, Hillary and I communicated via the internet. My last message was on Dec. 13, less than two months from when she would die. She expressed some very welcome personal thoughts on filling "the holidays with happiness and family."
She took the opportunity in her email to do a little advocacy, too. She wrote, "Please take the time to encourage the Executive Council to accept the $330,000 exchange planning grant." This grant is part of an initiative by the federal government to have hospitals and other providers create a system through which patient information can be moved among institutions to help improve health care and outcomes.
A reader might not think this is important. Here is what Hillary said, "I truly believe communication technology can cure health care." Once during her own journey with cancer, she was lost "in the system" at one health care facility for six weeks "while awaiting a study medication in 2008."
Hillary was working with the Chief Information Officer at the Department of Health and Human Services to add a patient communications area to our electronic medical records system.
She called the idea a "Facebook patient system where multiple providers from different hospitals would be able to communicate in one place online regarding a single patient." Hillary had six years of first-hand experience moving among hospitals including Valley Regional Hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Dana Farber Cancer Center and New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospitals. She knew what she was talking about.
I am a Senate appointee to the board of the New Hampshire Health Information Organization which oversees the early stage efforts to move the medical records exchange program forward. That would include incorporating ideas suggested by Hillary.
Hillary would be pleased to know that progress is being made. On Wednesday, for example, the Governor and Council approved a critically important contract between the Department of Health and Human Services and the NH Health Information Organization.
Each step, each approval, and each contract moves New Hampshire along a path that Hillary saw as a place in need of real change and improvement. Her advocacy, even as she managed her life through her own illnesses, is having an impact.
I will miss those emails from my friend and best citizen advocate.
On Saturday, Jack Liberman, community leader and long time member of the State Committee on Aging, turned 90 years of age. What better way to celebrate than to have a party for friends and other Newport area community leaders on your birthday at the Soo Nippi Lodge. I was pleased to bring with me a special citation from Governor Lynch saluting Jack on his birthday and his many contributions. Congratulations to Jack and best wishes for all the years ahead.
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