BY PHILLYGRRL Last month, 35-year old Manan Trivedi, a physician and Iraqi war veteran, announced that he was running for the position of U.S. Representative in the 6th Congressional District of Pennsylvania. The post has been held by Republican Jim Gerlach for four terms despite a significant increase in Democrat voters in the district. The post became vacant when Gerlach announced in February that he will be running for governor of Pennsylvania in 2010. Since then, Trivedi, a Democrat who grew up in Berks County and currently works and resides in Reading, PA, has been spreading the word about his campaign. Trivedi, a newcomer to politics, believes that having a physician in Congress will strengthen the Democrat’s call for health reform. At this point, Trivedi has raised over $100, 000 for his campaign, but he faces formidable challenges, including an opponent with deep pockets. And are the suburbs of Philadelphia even ready for a Democrat congressman? Trivedi spoke with Phawker about his campaign.
PHAWKER: The debate over healthcare has been churning long before Joe Wilson shouted out his now infamous “You lie” during President Obama’s health care address. You’re work as a primary care physician and you also have a master’s in health policy. Your comments on health care reform?
MANAN TRIVEDI: Mr. Wilson’s remarks were unfortunate for a lot of reasons. He came across as absolutely rude and unprofessional. I think what President Obama said during his speech was excellent, he sent out a real call to reform. We need action now. At the same time, Democrats are bad at articulating why there is a need for reform and why there is a need to do it now. We need to speak with credibility on the issue of health reform. There are doctors in Congress, but they’re mostly Republicans. I’m an Iraq war veteran physician and I have a background in health policy. My experiences – both in Iraq and health care policy – have really driven me to run for Congress. I have a real world perspective on a lot of these issues that are driving lawmakers. I believe a lot of them are out of touch with these issues. I think a lot of these senators and congressmen would think differently if they pulled a shift in the ER on a Saturday night…
PHAWKER: So your response to President Obama on this issue of health care reform would be what exactly?
MANAN TRIVEDI: When you look at the data, it’s a no-brainer. We need reform. I know that as both a policymaker and from my personal experience as a physician. I don’t do what I went to medical school to learn to do. I spend a lot of time fighting with insurance companies to ensure my 85-year-old patient gets the coverage she needs. At the end of the day, I also think it’s a moral issue. As Ted Kennedy once said, a person’s wealth should never determine a person’s health. I know people are screaming and yelling right now about health care reform, but I honestly don’t know what they want, I have yet to understand their message. We need a rational discussion with whoever disagrees with healthcare reform. We’re taking a strong step in the right direction. I would say that primary care doctors are the only ones who can make a dent in quality of care and bring costs down. Primary care in America is underfunded. We need to invest in broader community health, which is most of the stuff that determines how your health will be in 85 years. I think we have a long way to go, the president got us back on footing a little bit. We need to amplify his message and not get distracted.
PHAWKER: For your time in Iraq, you were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Commendation Medal, and you unit was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. Tell me a little about your time in Iraq.
MANAN TRIVEDI: Sometimes I think my time in Iraq was harder on my wife than it was on me. Not all wars are equal and we certainly shouldn’t take the decision to go to war lightly – as many of our lawmakers do. I was a part of the first ground force to enter Iraq. There were many times when I was under direct fire. When your doctor is under direct fire, you know things are not going as well as they should be. I even carried a 9mm pistol, which I never had to use. It was a crazy time – but it was also a very informative time. I learned what it really means to make the decision to go to war – as opposed to some of those folks sitting on those cushy chairs in Congress.
PHAWKER: What challenges is your campaign facing right now?
MANAN TRIVEDI: Well, all campaigns face similar challenges. First of all, we have to spread the word about my campaign far and wide. One week there’s a guy screaming in Congress and who knows what Britney Spears is going to do next week? We need to get people to talk about the important issues. Secondly, unfortunately every campaign needs to raise money. It’s going extremely well right now, but I encourage all your readers, if they believe in their country and my experience and the issues that I stand for to consider giving to the campaign.
PHAWKER: Now your parents emigrated from India and eventually settled in Berks County. They both ended up working in an apple juice factory. What did you learn from their experience in America?
MANAN TRIVEDI: My dad came to America in the early sixties; he was the first guy from his village to leave India. He worked his tail off. He cleaned bathrooms and worked hard days as a busboy while going to college in the segregated south. People would ask him, “Why are you working so hard?” But he believed that America is a place where everyone is judged on their merit – not their skin color and ethnicity. I want to bring that back.
PHAWKER: Now one of your primary challengers is Democrat Doug Pike, a former aide to Senator Paul Tsongas back in the 1980s, who also served on the editorial board of The Philadelphia Inquirer for 14 years. Pike has already put half a million of his own dollars into this campaign. What do your thoughts on that?
MANAN TRIVEDI: The reason why people were enamored by Pike is because he has a large trust fund. I don’t know too much about him, but I don’t think he’s worked in the last eight years. That must be nice. But like I said, he has a lot of money and that makes him a viable candidate. If it weren’t for his personal wealth, there’s no way he would be a viable candidate.
PHAWKER: I heard you’re a huge fan of Philly teams.
MANAN TRIVEDI: Absolutely, I love football season. Go Eagles!