UArizona Physician, Med Student Biking across Midwest on Health Care ‘Listening Tour’ in Age of COVID-19

May 20, 2020
Dr. Paul Gordon embarks on a multi-state bicycle “listening tour” to hear what people in rural areas think about the U.S. health care system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

TUCSON, Ariz. – Paul Gordon, MD, MPH, professor, University of Arizona Department of Family and Community Medicine in the College of Medicine – Tucson and Julia Liatti, a first-year medical student (and avid bicyclist), are embarking on a multi-state bicycle “listening tour” to hear what people in rural areas of the United States think about the U.S. healthcare system.

Dr. Paul Gordon, a UArizona professor and family medicine physician, and his wife heading out on the first leg of his health care ‘listening tour’ in State College, Pennsylvania.Dr. Gordon started on May 19 in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Eve Shapiro, MD, a UArizona professor emerita. From there, they will ride through Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota, ending in early July. Liatti will join Dr. Gordon in early June.

Dr. Gordon is documenting his trip and experiences through his blog, bikelisteningtour, which he updates regularly.

This is Dr. Gordon’s second listening tour. He and another medical student went on a cross-country bike tour in 2016 to hear what people thought of the Affordable Care Act (also referred to as Obamacare).

“The focus of this trip will be on health care policy as opposed to the Affordable Care Act,” said Dr. Gordon. “We hope to learn how participants’ views of our current health care policy might influence their voting in 2020. Of course, we are also interested to learn how the current pandemic has affected their views about our healthcare system, as well.”

Buccolic view of rural countryside near Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Dr. Gordon’s trip is a reprisal of listening tour he and a medical student did in 2016 to hear views about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.Dr. Gordon said the most central part of this work is gaining people’s trust so that they will tell him their thoughts and stories.

“Because of COVID-19, I fear that with social distancing and masks, trusting relationships will be more challenging to create. I also fear there won’t be as many people ‘out and about’ with whom I can speak,” he said.
“However, it appears that there is growing openness to the role of government in providing greater social services, as opposed to the strong anti-government sentiment I encountered in 2016.”

Still, Dr. Gordon knows that in the age of COVID-19, connecting with people may be challenging. On his blog, he reflected:

“Face mask, social distance, fear of infection. How will I gain the trust and create the safe environment that will allow people to talk with me? How will I establish the intimacy and demonstrate the empathy needed with a mask over my face and at a social distance to ensure my safety and theirs?”

Dr. Gordon and Liatti will soon find out the answers to these questions.

They will complete their listening tour around July 5, in Fargo, North Dakota.

Follow their journey here,, or on the UArizona Health Sciences social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).

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WRITERS/EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: To reach Dr. Gordon directly for an interview, email:; or call, mobile: 520-405-5736.

NOTE: Photos available upon request.

About the University of Arizona Department of Family and Community Medicine
The Department of Family and Community Medicine at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson is one of the top-ranking family medicine programs in the country. The department is known for outstanding pre- and post-doctoral education, groundbreaking research and innovative community outreach programs designed to improve the health of individuals, families and communities in the region and beyond. The department places strong emphasis on research, particularly in the fields of tobacco cessation, substance abuse, obesity and related diseases, cancer survivorship, behavioral health and disabilities, and Native American and Latino health. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | YouTube).

About the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is shaping the future of medicine through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research and advancements in patient care in Arizona and beyond. Founded in 1967, the college boasts more than 50 years of innovation, ranking among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care. Through the university's partnership with Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, the college is leading the way in academic medicine. For more information, visit (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn).

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

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