I am an ER pediatrician & accidental politician — someone who never thought much about politics until I was recruited to run for state office after making a statement about the importance of expanding Medicaid. That decision — plus some twisted reporting & presidential tweets — ended up costing my husband, Andrew, his job & our family a significant portion of his pension my husband had worked hard for over 21 years of federal service. For the past year & a half of this nightmare, I have not been free to speak out about what happened. Now that Andrew has been fired, I am.
Andrew & I met as sophomores in college, at Duke. He was interested in law (eventually law enforcement), I in medicine (eventually pediatrics). Andrew’s a reliable Republican; I have voted, over time, for both Republicans & Democrats.
As we have raised our children, I tried to vote more regularly & pay more attention to the issues that affect our community. And with my work in a hospital ER in VA, I saw the impact of how government decisions hurt my patients, especially when VA decided not to accept the federal government’s funding to expand Medicaid.
I was providing care in the most expensive setting — the ER — & only once a patient’s condition became more serious, because he or she had no other options. In addition, VA’s decision was increasing the cost of health care for everyone, ultimately raising prices, premiums & taxes, while thousands of patients suffered. The whole thing just made no sense.
One day in 2014, an entourage of politicians came through the ER, & a reporter pulled me aside to ask how Medicaid expansion would affect my patients. I did not think any more of it until a year later, when I received a voice mail asking whether I might be interested in running for the VA Senate.
I was stunned — I went home & told Andrew, & we laughed about how crazy that idea was. A few days later, I got another call: Clark Mercer, chief of staff to then-Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, asking me to at least speak to Ralph, who is a pediatric neurologist. I was moved by Ralph’s story about how he had used his medical background to advocate for the needs of the children he serves.
I started to become more interested, thinking, “Here’s a way I can really try to help people on a bigger scale than what I do every day.” While I was considering the possibility, Andrew & I went to Richmond to meet with various politicians, including then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The subject of Hillary Clinton never came up — the story about her emails had not even broken when I was first approached by Northam. All the governor asked of me was that I support Medicaid expansion.
Here is a link to CNN reporting. I think the WaPo piece can be accessed by the link in the second paragraph without hitting a paywall.