Med Student Running for Congress Against Political Dynasty

Ryan Syrek, MA

October 15, 2019

You do have a fair bit of political experience, despite your young age.

I actually have a lot of political experience. I was an organizer on Hillary Clinton's campaign for the general election. After that, I was part of a group that created an organization called Michigan Resistance, which has been one of the most active grassroots activist organizations in our state. Our group has made tens of thousands of calls to our state capitol to stop bad bills in our state legislature. We have helped stop over a dozen pieces of legislation, which has been really exciting.

But at this point, we need to do a lot more than resist. We need to be going out there and fighting for our vision for what we want this country to look like. I would love for someone else to do it, but if my representative isn't, then I feel like I have to go out there and do it myself.

Medical students often are very concerned about how they are perceived by their peers and others. This may keep them from being more politically vocal. Do you feel as though medical students have a responsibility to be more politically involved?

From the start of medical school to the end of residency is 7 years, minimum. There are a lot of things that are happening in our world right now, especially climate change, that we feel like we want to act on. But it's challenging because we're locked away for almost a decade, working very, very long hours. We feel like we don't have the bandwidth to take on something else. But I think everyone has a responsibility to be more politically involved at this point, medical students included. If you're a human, you need to be politically involved. The issues are way too huge for you not to be, at this point.

I was talking to a friend of mine about this. She looked at me and said, "At one point, we will all have to run. It's going to get that crazy." I think that we are getting to a place where more and more newcomers are running because they're not seeing the government reflect anything that they stand for. I think that for medical professionals and medical students, it can be challenging with our time restrictions. But whether you're a doctor, whether you're a medical student, if you're frustrated with things, you should go out there and try to change them. A small amount of people can make a really big change.

So, what's harder: running for elected office or going through medical school?

Definitely running for office—100%. In medical school, there is a lot of work but it is very clear what is necessary in order to make it. There's not much ambiguity. Running for office is completely different. There are a million possible ways you could go. We know that most people who start medical school will ultimately finish and become doctors, which is great. The challenge with running for office is that you often don't know many other people who have done it. There aren't many people you can ask about it. And you don't know if you're going to succeed. In fact, you know you're probably not going to succeed. That's what makes it seem a lot more insurmountable.

Ryan Syrek, MA is Section Editor, Medscape Medical Students and Residents.

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