Dr. Shannon Ray Schrader has been a visible and, at times, inspiring presence in the fight against AIDS in Houston. So why are a lot of AIDS patients pissed off at him now?
It's because they're feeling abandoned.
Schrader has notified his 1,500 or so AIDS patients that he's making a drastic change to his practice: If they want to remain patients, they'll have to pay $1,500 a year above any other costs. And only 600 will make the cut. And if you don't make the cut, you're out of luck in two months.
He's been informing patients as they visit. And shocking them. "I literally was thinking, 'What can I sell? Is there any jewelry I could sell? Is there something I can sell to pay the $1,500 that would at least give me one more year to come up with a solution rather than two months?'" says one patient.
This patient says he wasn't angered ("Anger's not healthy"), but others in the community are pissed.
Schrader's "a greedy jerk...You do the math: 600 x $1,500 = $900,000 for Schrader without even depressing one tongue," says one activist, who worries about whether Houston's AIDS-treatment facilities can handle a sudden influx of patients.
What does Schrader have to say about all this? To us, nothing. He wouldn't return several calls seeking comment.
In a letter to patients, however, he urged them to attend one of two meetings at the Hilton Houston Post Oak to explain the change.
"This smaller practice setting will also provide you with same- or next-day appointments that start on time and last as long as needed," he wrote. "You will be able to reach me directly 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
(The two meetings were canceled: 600 people signed up well before the scheduled date.)
Schrader is working with a company called MD-VIP, a network that specializes in what's called "concierge care" for patients wealthy enough to pay premium prices for first-class service.
Even though Schrader won't speak on his own behalf, he has been known as a pretty tireless AIDS fighter, famous for ending every office visit with a hug.
That's partly why the patient who couldn't scrape up the $1,500 is somewhat understanding.
"He told me...basically he just couldn't handle the pace any longer. It was affecting his personal life, his relationship with his partner, with his family," the patient says. "[He] just had to make changes for his own well-being."
You can't blame him for that. We just hope the patients who can't afford first-class make out all right too.
Alabama Governor George Wallace famously stood in a schoolhouse door to block desegregation. Annette Cluff, director of a Houston charter school, stood in a schoolhouse door to block something apparently just as insidious: dreadlocks.
Or maybe she didn't stand in the doorway; there are conflicting versions of events. But one man's fight for his four-year-old to wear dreads has definitely riled things at Varnett Charter School.
Anthony Frazier enrolled his son Prince at Varnett, but found out at parents' orientation night that dreads were not allowed under the school's dress code.
Cluff said officials informed Frazier that Prince could wear his hair in a ponytail during school. Frazier told them, she says, that "Varnett had an unfair dress-code policy because [it] would make his son look like a white child."
"I didn't want to listen to their bullshit," Frazier says. "People in this day and age should learn to accept cultural differences."
Frazier, who's a bassist for the funk band Collective Hallucination, is very, very serious about dreads. "It's not a hairstyle, it's a way of life," he says. "Cutting my son's hair would be like cutting a lion's mane."
Frazier is not taking this lying down. He's called Rodney Ellis, Quanell X and the ACLU. "Not all black children want a shaved head," he says. "What if the kid has an Afro? Where does it end?"
His son will probably attend public school now, he says.
You know, we're somehow guessing that the folks at Varnett aren't all that sad about missing out on the Prince Frazier experience.
Our novice attempt at creating a crossword puzzle last week about the Texans went about as well as a David Carr comeback.
Well, it wasn't that bad, but we did make one mistake.
If you're still stumped, absolutely unable to complete the thing, we can offer help.
In the lower right-hand corner of the puzzle, there should be another clue. It would have been numbered "34 Down" and it would be "Sinecure for aging or clumsy baseball players."
Ah, fuck it. The answer's "DH."
Andy Kahan's Top 100 Hits
Andy Kahan is head of Mayor Bill Whites Crime Victims Office. That can be a pretty grim gig. Luckily, Kahan has what he admits is a wacky sense of humor that keeps me going. And part of that is keeping active track of all the idiotic murderabilia that has actually been sold or offered for sale somewhere. In case you dont know, murderabilia is any item connected to a vicious, senseless killer or his crime. Here's his current top-hits list.
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