Med Student Running for Congress Against Political Dynasty

Ryan Syrek, MA

October 15, 2019

Staying specific to healthcare, your opponent in the primary, Debbie Dingle, is also in favor of Medicare for All. In fact, I believe she founded a caucus for it at some point. What makes you different from her in terms of healthcare policy?

Let me be the first one to say that I really appreciate that Debbie Dingle has taken up an overall Medicare for All stand. I think that's really great. Unfortunately, with our representatives, including Congresswoman Dingle, you don't actually know where she stands. Elected officials often keep things a little vague.

I support a system where everyone is guaranteed healthcare through the government. I don't believe that private insurance companies should profit off of people's illnesses. That should not be part of the system. I think we should join our peer countries in the developed world to guarantee healthcare by saying that everyone will pay into a government program for healthcare, and that will be called Medicare for All.

Sometimes representatives say "Medicare for All" when they actually mean a private insurance and a public option hybrid. Or they'll say they want to augment private insurance by providing public funds. I think, right now, it's a little unclear where Debbie Dingle actually stands on that, but I'm very clear where I stand.

Do you feel like there is any sort of consensus among young medical professionals?

I think many, many people support Medicare for All. Many people go into medicine, as I did, idealistically, trying to help people take care of patients in vulnerable moments. To go up against the system and see our attendings be so burned out and dissatisfied with the current system really affects our perception of the medical field.

Doctors will tell you all the time how documentation has gotten to be so onerous and how they're spending less and less time with their patients because they have to do more and more work to comply with insurance. I think that many of us are seeing the realities of the system that we are frustrated with, and a lot of people, especially medical students, think that Medicare for All is the way we need to go.

You also actively support the Green New Deal. Does that have anything to do with your medical background?

When we think about health, there is the medical management that we learn about in medical school. There is also a public health component. In regard to climate change, what we know is that a destabilized climate means many more natural disasters, wildfires, drought, and crop shortages. Health is going to be one of the first things affected. We're already seeing that. When there is widespread disaster, not only are people dying, but the people who are able to withstand these crises the least are the ones who are most vulnerable.

When I was thinking about whether I should run, and the implications of letting climate change go unmitigated, I thought, I can go and be a doctor and take care of my patients, and that's great. That would be doing a great service for other people. But if we're not focused on treating the root cause of an issue that is going to be exacerbating health problems throughout the world, then are we just trying to triage the problem? As doctors, are we going to help people at the last possible minute, when there are these issues that are causing them to be unhealthy to begin with?

Your campaign slogan is "We're done waiting." Do you think this is a common feeling among med students right now?

What is definitely a common feeling among med students is how frustrated they are with the expense of their medical education. So many people base their residency choices off of what they believe will make it easier for them to pay back their student loans.

I'm in over six digits of student debt in 2 years. Many of my friends are from out of state and are looking at even higher education bills. That is something that is on everyone's mind all the time as medical students.

I believe we need tuition-free college education. Some may say that this is a radical stance, but I think that we need to recognize that we are a very wealthy country. We have resources available to us if we choose to use them. If corporations pay their fair share and if the wealthiest among us pay their fair share, there is plenty of money to invest in our education.

Look, I would love to not be running for office right now. I would love for my representative to be championing these issues. Unfortunately, she's been lobbied for a long, long time. I would love to have a representative who I can trust to be an advocate for the issues that I care about. But if someone else is not going to be a champion, then I will.

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