After delivering approximately 3,000 babies over the course of his career, Dr. George Rice turned to the other end of the age spectrum in retirement, volunteering his time and talent with AARP. In September, the organization honored Rice with Washington State’s 2010 Andrus Award for community service.
“This award is a reminder to members and the public that we can all work together for positive social change,” said John Barnett, state AARP president. “AARP has long valued the spirit of volunteerism.”
Rice, 74, has served AARP in a number of positions, including as a chapter president, health adviser, and an executive council member. “He’s a health policy expert for us,” said Bruce Carlson, AARP media development director.
In the ever-changing world of health care, Rice’s expertise has been much needed and appreciated. But he’s no stranger to affecting positive social change. In 1990, he was given the Washington State Obstetrical Association’s, first Distinguished Service Award for his work in getting the First Steps prenatal care program passed by the Legislature.
“The First Steps program was a life-changing experience for me,” Rice said. He’d grown concerned by the number of pregnant women arriving at the emergency room, ready to give birth without having received any prenatal care.
He said, “There were so many problems that could have been prevented if they’d had prenatal care. We discovered physicians weren’t being reimbursed enough for Medicaid patients and so had to limit how many patients they accepted.”
This appalled Rice who had entered the field of obstetrics because he wanted “to be part of a happy specialty.”
Rice worked with the Department of Social and Health Services and members of the medical community to present the Legislature with a plan that would ensure all pregnant women would have access to prenatal care. Their efforts resulted in the First Steps program.
In addition to his obstetrics practice, Rice delved into the subspecialty of infertility. “Helping couples with infertility was very rewarding,” he said. Then he laughed. “Multiple births are common and I always had a standing invitation to babysit, but I never took anyone up on it.”
When Rice retired in 1997 he looked for ways to continue helping his community. AARP proved to be a good fit for him. He embraced the organization’s goal of helping people age with dignity. He also appreciated AARP’s dedication to ensuring seniors have representation regarding legislative issues.
“The AARP is like the guard dog at the hen house,” Rice said. “They keep an eye on what’s going on in the Legislature regarding Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.”
He relishes being actively involved in the current health care transformation. “There are good changes on the horizon,” he said. “The Affordable Health Care Act is good, but there are parts of it that need changing and we don’t know all of the ramifications yet.”
While Rice is honored to receive the Andrus Award he said, “There are a lot of people who probably deserve it more.”
For Rice, retirement has become an expanded opportunity to find ways to better the world around him. He chuckled. “Retirement probably isn’t the right word. I’m not going to sit back in an easy chair. I’d rather see what I can do to help the community I’m a part of.”