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Dr. Lew Patrie: Thirty Two Years and Counting

This summer our Development Intern Isabel Pennings reached out to long-time member Dr. Lew Patrie, who has been active in our organization and issues since the 1970s. Below is his story. 

July 20, 2012

When I spoke with Dr. Lew Patrie on the phone this afternoon, he let me know that he was just getting back from a PSR meeting. It certainly is wonderful to hear that our members have remained involved for so many years. 
    Dr. Lew was introduced to PSR in the early 1970’s after he heard Dr. Helen Caldicott speak in B.C.  Dr. Patrie was working as the County Health Commissioner to Duchess County in New York at the time, and a major health concern he dealt with was the threat of nuclear war. He described his work at that time as teaching people to provide “medical self-help,” or teaching people how to protect themselves against a nuclear attack. As Dr. Patrie worked, though, he said that over time he began to “see the fallacy” in his work. As he said, “Nuclear war is not survivable. That thought is a way of placating fears that are real, not offering valid solutions.” When he heard Dr. Caldicott speak, he was drawn into the organization because she shared his same views and offered a more practical medical solution.
    In the 1990’s, Dr. Patrie moved to Asheville, NC, and became increasingly involved with PSR.  He served as the chair of the Western North Carolina for 15 years and is now Chair Emeritus of the chapter.  Throughout his time there, the chapter has worked on eliminating nuclear weapons and gun violence, climate change, coal ash, and fracking. He is still very passionate about his work in the local chapter.
    “We consider ourselves a spokesgroup that represents the Carolinas,” said Dr. Lew, speaking about the limited number of other PSR Chapters in the area. They are certainly tackling this responsibility head-on, recently focusing on the presence of nuclear reactors in their area.
    “We consider that we live in the nuclear heartland because of the number of nuclear weapon sites that surround us. We are also a ‘crossroads’, in the intersection of highways, weapons, and fuel transfer for nuclear reactors.” At the time, Dr. Patrie says, there are 7 commerical nuclear reactors in the area and 2 more proposed. Dr. Patrie predicts that, in the future, many more shipments of radioactive materials will likely be made from around the country to South Carolina.  However, Dr. Patrie is optimistic about the work of the chapter, citing a good working relationship with Mary Olson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, the only organization of its kind not located in Washington, D.C.
    When asked what advice he had for new PSR members, Dr. Patrie said to “encourage people to come to meetings, and keep coming.” He also stressed that PSR welcomes all members—physician or not—who are passionate about the cause. 
    We certainly share Dr. Patrie’s desire for new members and a bright future for PSR. We hope to share even more stories of new, active 25 Year Members like Dr. Patrie in the years to come.