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I Knew Getting Politically Involved Could Help Change The Healthcare System

“Get out while you can!” These were the words I was told in my third year of medical school. My passion into politics isn’t typical. It all started when I decided to become a doctor.

I couldn’t understand why my attending physician during medical school kept telling me to get out of medicine. It bothered me to hear him repeat the advice again and again. After hearing him say it so many times, I did what any sane person would do and did more research into why he was telling me this. What I came to realize is that health care in America is a flawed institution in many ways. Not just in the practice of medicine, but in countless different areas. As I read more about the flaws, I realized I wasn’t the only one in the field who was having feelings of hopelessness about the limitations and shortcomings of our system. This lead me to start networking with other practitioners who were doing work in New Mexico to improve things, which led me to Dr. Lance Chilton.

Dr. Chilton is a renowned pediatrician who works on passing laws for immunizations and vaccinations. While working with Dr. Chilton on a research paper I was able to see through his eyes how I could both be a doctor and an advocate for change in the medical field. So, I stepped up and got more involved. This happened in 2016, when the presidential election was in full swing, and I was astounded that Donald Trump made a focus of his campaign getting rid of Obamacare: I went from hopeless to furious to determined. When Trump was elected to office with a mission to destroy everything we have fought so hard for, it drove me doubly hard to work to safeguard our rights.

For me, being driven to stop Trump and everything he stands for is about more than being a doctor: I am also a first-generation Muslim-American, and I've worked in places where health care is too often unreachable for people. Years before I became a doctor, I was a LPN (licensed practitioner nurse), and had the opportunity to work in my parent’s native home country, Tanzania. I saw American missionary groups and NGO’s come to Dar-Es-Salaam to provide local villages with health care. I also saw what happened when these organizations couldn't help people and what that does to a community. It breaks my heart to know we are in the world’s most powerful country, but cannot provide access to affordable health care for all. It blows my mind!

After the 2016 presidential election, my involvement in the political community in New Mexico continued to grow more and more, and I began to transform into someone who could be a spokesperson about medicine and health care reform. As I attended more political events, I had a local candidate tell me that I should look into the Emerge New Mexico program, which trains Democratic women on how to run for office. I applied immediately and after a few rounds of interviews, I was accepted in the program. This was the start to my true political career.

It’s not just passion for basic human rights that fuels my drive, it's also my background. My family came here for a better life, the “American Dream.” I am the product of that dream, and I use my skills and knowledge to promote and empower women. In fact, my passion led me to leave full-time work as a physician to run the Emerge program in Arizona, where I currently live. Being the executive director of Emerge Arizona is rewarding, because I get to see the women we train fight and preserve as candidates and elected officials. Hearing their stories and working with them motivates me daily to keep working for progress.

Dr. Sharmin Dharas is the executive director of Emerge Arizona, which recruits, trains and provides a powerful network to Democratic women who want to run for office.

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