Med Student Running for Congress Against Political Dynasty

Ryan Syrek, MA

October 15, 2019

With a slogan that declares "We're done waiting," med student Solomon Rajput is hoping to unseat fellow Democrat and incumbent Debbie Dingell in Michigan's 12th congressional district next year. The Dingell family is well established in politics. John Dingell Sr was a congressional representative for 22 years, starting in 1933. He was succeeded by his son, Debbie's husband, in 1955. Debbie took over her husband's seat after his passing in 2015.

Although Rajput's politics do not differ tremendously from Debbie Dingell's, he feels that his focus sets him apart from her approach. He believes that issues like climate change and Medicare for All must be tackled immediately, even before he completes his medical education. We spoke with Rajput to find out exactly why he is pausing his career goals to run for office, what makes a 27-year-old medical student qualified to challenge an established political representative, and whether it is harder to run for office or go to med school.

What made you decide to run for office while in the middle of medical school?

The great thing about everyone asking me questions now is that the order is getting pretty predictable. "Why are you running for office?" is almost always the first question. "Why in medical school?" is always the second.

Basically, there are some important issues that I care about as a progressive that I feel my current representative is not championing. These are really urgent issues. First off, I care about getting money out of politics. I think it's at the root of all of the disfunction and evil in our government.

Second, as a medical student, I've seen how unfortunate our healthcare system can be when insurance is involved. I've had to witness many doctors essentially having to tell their patients, "Well, we'd love to provide this treatment for you but, unfortunately, your insurance doesn't cover it, so we're out of luck. This is the end of the road." I think that, at this point, we need to join the rest of the developed world and say we're going to make healthcare a human right. Those are two really big issues that motivated me: getting money out of politics and Medicare for All.

So, why run for office as a medical student right now? I'm in the middle of my training. I'm about to start my third year, and then after that I'll have the residency, right? By the time I'm an independent physician, I'm looking at least 5 years, if not longer. Some issues, especially climate change, are far too urgent to wait on. So my decision was that I should take a leave from medical school to run for office.

If you win the primary and then are elected to Congress, would you return to medicine, or have you made the choice to enter the political arena permanently?

I would love to return to medicine at some point, but we need to see where the primary and the election go. Thankfully, my administration has been very supportive and very understanding in terms of trying to accommodate my particularly peculiar aspirations. They've said that the opportunity to come back to med school would still be possible.

You're only 27 years old, and much of your time has been spent in education. Do you feel like there's something about the education that you've received that qualifies you to hold a congressional seat?

That's a great question. I think something that I learned through my medical education is to be very conscientious of why we recommend a solution.

In medical school, you need to think about treatment options and what will ultimately solve the problem in the best way. Looking at politics right now, I see these huge issues and then several possible supposed "treatments" or solutions. Which of these are actually going to address the problem and "cure the illness" right now, whether it's the insane cost of college tuition, that people are paying so much money to health insurance companies, or that climate change is happening? Medical school has helped me think through how to come to a specific, evidence-based solution. That's how I'm approaching politics as well.

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