In 2004, Virgin Islands native Dr. Cora Christian was chosen from hundreds of nationwide applicants to join AARP’s national board. This thrust her forward to bring the interests and needs of Virgin Islanders into the spotlight of one of America’s largest nonpartisan advocacy organizations - AARP.
Virgin Islanders must understand what membership on AARP’s board brought to the territory. AARP and the VI have witnessed the result of work to make health care available to all in this country.
In early May, Dr. Christian’s tenure comes to an end. She has served six years, and must step down from the volunteer position she clearly loves, but she will undoubtedly find other avenues to advocate on behalf of our territory. It is only fitting that AARP Virgin Islands takes a moment to reflect upon her work.
AARP’s Board engaged a strategy to change the face of American health care. The 2006 launch of the multi-year “Divided We Fail” campaign drew national attention to the need to fix America’s broken health care system. The DWF campaign told Americans - politicians and voters - that the time had come to change the inequities of our health care industry.
Dr. Christian focused steadfastly, and ensured that territories be given special consideration due to the complexities of the issues. The following two years were demanding for Dr. Christian. In addition to a medical career in the VI, she worked diligently to message AARP’s DWF priorities on local and national fronts.
Locally, Dr. Christian labored to sensitize VI policy makers to the unique territorial opportunities of AARP’s campaign. She spoke at VI civic organizations, consistently reached out to local media with updates, and in 2008, hosted a weekly radio show for AARP Virgin Islands. Nationally, she spoke across the nation and continued to urge for territorial inclusion. Her efforts drove home the need for territories to be considered equal under federal health care programs.
She formed an alliance with VI Delegate to Congress, Donna Christensen to seek parity for the territories. As DWF changed to Health Action Now, Dr. Christian and Delegate Christensen pushed for the territories inclusion in the debate.
Stateside residents knew that the Senate’s passage of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act had forever changed health care for them. But, territories weren’t included in this bill. A week later when the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 was passed and signed into law, Dr. Christian’s work finally paid off.
AARP CEO Barry Rand wrote to Christian, “I’ve watched your strong, compassionate, unrelenting and courageous leadership on this issue. You should be proud because I can tell you that without your strength the territories and Puerto Rico would not have happened. You motivated, urged and never let people forget. You should go into history books as one of the ‘Great Heroes of the Territories.’ I will testify for you.”
As the sun sets on Dr. Christian’s tenure on the AARP National Board, the AARP Virgin Islands State Office wants to convey our appreciation to Dr. Christian for all that was done on behalf of the Virgin Islands. Thank you Dr. C!