In 1981, Young co-founded the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, which advocates for equity in the U.S. healthcare system. He had a way of getting people to listen, “Even if you didn't always agree,” recalls Executive Director Margie Schaps. “He was serious and committed to the cause, but was also witty and told jokes. That drew people to him and helped to break the ice,” she said.
In 1992, Young took over as co-head of Physicians for a National Health Program, relocating the headquarters from Cambridge, Mass., to Chicago. In 1999, the director of policy and programs, Dr. Ida Hellander, established the Quentin D. Young Health Activist Award to honor physicians and other health professionals committed to social justice.
“So many people have awards named for them after they die,” Hellander said. “We wanted there to be an award people could receive from him while he was alive.” It is now considered one of Physicians for a National Health Program's highest recognitions.
Young served as president of the American Public Health Association in 1998. Benjamin recalls that one key priority was engaging patients to improve health outcomes. “You can't have public health without the public,” Benjamin remembers Young saying.
For his life's work, Young was recognized as one of Modern Healthcare's 50 Most Influential Physician Executives four consecutive times beginning in 2005.
The single-payer movement that he championed struggled for years, but resurged in 2007 when the Michael Moore documentary “Sicko” highlighted the effort.
“We moved up from being 'irrelevant' in the debate to being an 'undesirable alternative,' ” Young said at the time. In 2008, he retired from his internal medicine practice to devote attention to his activist positions full time.
In 2009, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn named Young as chairman of the state's Health Facilities Planning Board, which was at the heart of some of the corruption allegations levied against Quinn's ousted predecessor Rod Blagojevich.
Young attended the University of Chicago in the early 1940s, before leaving to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. He later attended Northwestern University's medical school in Chicago and did his residency at Cook County Hospital, where he worked for years.
Besides his healthcare pursuits, colleagues say Young and his late wife were also literature buffs, with an affinity for Russian authors and Shakespeare, which he sometimes quoted in speeches.