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The most recognized male figure skater in history doesn’t define himself that way. Instead, he jokingly mentions his “hobby of collecting life-threatening illnesses” and then moves on to how his celebrity combined with the blunt fact that he’s survived against the odds gives him a powerful platform to help others.

That, it would seem, is how Scott Hamilton sees himself these days. As a man working hard to make sure others have it better than he does, even in the midst of horrible circumstances.

The more you go through it the more you learn and the more you wish you would have known earlier.

I just really want people that are just diagnosed with cancer […] to truly understand what the implications are for this path forward and your treatment options.

Helping people understand their circumstances and options led Scott to found a number of organizations and partnerships. One, 4th Angel, pairs people currently fighting cancer with others who have already been there. It’s a mentoring program for patients and their loved ones. Finally, the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation helps fund research into new targeted cancer therapies, helping biomedical researchers and clinicians move towards more effective, more personalized interventions. Those two organizations partnered with the Cleveland Clinic to start, a website that helps people understand the terminology around chemotherapy, as well as provides insight into treatment options.

Even though he’s not running these organizations in their day-to-day operations — that’s “for really skilled people in foundation work” — Scott has strong opinions on the state of our healthcare system today. He would know, he’s spent 20+ years as a patient with numerous conditions and diseases. In addition, he lost his mother to cancer prior to the start of his own fight.

While technology and medicine have made incredible gains over the years, the financial structure is problematic (no secret there).

I ask people all the time, the last time you went in for a surgery or a doctor visit did you ask them how much any of this is going to cost? And a lot of it is because we’ve been programmed we know that we can’t afford the product. So there’s a level of denial there and we don’t want to ask. And then you buy insurance. So you can’t afford the products and you have to buy insurance that you can’t afford either to pay for the product […] And so it’s the most bizarre transaction possible.

He also notes that we’ve long told ourselves that if we just pay more into the system it’ll work, which just isn’t the case. Scott, of course, is only one of many making this point, that money will fix the problem. Structural changes are necessary.

At the same time, healthcare consumers have a responsibility to change and learn, too, with help from their doctors and entrepreneurs:

It’s retraining patients how to receive their health care, too. Because if they’re going to go to the emergency every single time somebody has a fever you know that just makes everything really expensive. There’s other ways of doing it. And so information is key.

With that in mind, Scott wants to see continued growth in products and services that help people understand medical information, as well as their personal health information. He wants people to be able to do their own homework and advocate for themselves.

The main thing is, you know, we we have to be our own best health advocate. No one’s going to do it for us. And you know, honestly, it’s a really efficient way of getting things done if you just take care of your own yard.

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