The Dr. is in...

The Dr. is in… unfortunately.

#UpgradeMedicaid would like to proudly introduce Dr. M.J. (Matt) Conaway.

“While earning a total of seven degrees from institutions such as Georgia Tech and The University of Michigan School of Public Health,a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at The University of Iowa and online postdoctoral work in Physiology at Ohio University, I developed many interests. These include medical and rehabilitation science, alternative health care, disability bioethics, research ethics, and health professions education.

As I pursued a Doctor of Bioethics through Loyola University Chicago, I decided that a career that combines expert witness work in legal cases, healthcare policy work, health professions education, criticism of technology and the research enterprise, and disability studies scholarship would be the best way for me to use my knowledge in biomedical science and engineering joined with my writing and administrative skills and my passion for teaching in addition to my life experience growing up disabled in a family of healthcare professionals.

In addition to my scholarly work, I serve as a Volunteer Patient at UIHC educating health profession students in disability issues. From that ongoing service, I found a real niche for myself. In addition to work in bioethics scholarship, I would be honored to help design similar training programs that span the health profession spectrum.

I just happen to have been born with severe cerebral palsy over 50 years ago and broke down the Special Education barriers in Georgia in the ‘70s and ‘80s before being the first one in my condition to go through Georgia Tech. I graduated on the Dean’s List in Engineering AND Pi Mu Epsilon in Applied Mathematics and completed premedical coursework. And, I am third-generation Doctor to boot.

As it is, I am quadriplegic in a head-controlled power wheelchair and work via mouthstick. I have autistic characteristics, pseudobulbar affect, and PTSD/anxiety disorder. Despite having garbled speech, I am bilingual in English and German. For the past 26 years, I have lived in my own apartment and have had intermittent morning and evening help with daily living activities. My roots are in Iowa and I consider Iowa City to be my hometown. With my vast education and experience, I relish making more contributions to society, preferably in academia, government, or some combination thereof.”

Dr. Conaway is the epitome of what a person with a disability can achieve...except he has been institutionalized at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for almost a month because he was dropped by the home health agency who provided the essential care he needed to live in the community. The agency claimed that they were losing money on his care, even though Dr. Conaway took on massive debt to pay 70-100% of those costs. Litigation against the agency is pending in Federal court, He is seeking counsel and representation for court.

Further, his friends in Chicago are no longer able to regularly care for him. Dr. Conaway has no other family to speak of. In spite of reaching out to nursing homes, agencies, and even legislators, the good Doctor has been unable to find direct care employees to return home.

Something needs to be done ASAP. He is scheduled to start teaching online bioethics courses as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the U of I in January. In order to do his job, he needs things to be stabilized so he is back home with reliable, appropriate care.

He does not need 24 hour care or supervision that a hospital or nursing home provides. Dr. Conaway only needs 2 hours of care in the morning, 1 hour of care at dinner and 2 hours of care at bedtime for assistance with bathing, dressing, toileting, meal preparation, eating, transferring, housecleaning, and laundry. Once he’s in his power chair, he is otherwise independent in all other daily activities in and out of his home.

This, unfortunately, is the new reality for people with disabilities who do not have the natural supports DHS and the MCOs are over-relying on and many others are on the verge of having to consider institutionalization (nursing home, group home or hospital).

Dr. M.J. Conaway deserves to live in the community and be able to share his gifts. Above and beyond that, it is costing more in tax payers money to keep him in an institution than providing the approximately 5 hours of care he needs to stay independent.

In this case, we prefer the Dr. be out.

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