Chester County Medicine Winter 2020 - 26

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Physicians
& Politics
BY: LARRY LIGHT

Mr. Light retired from the Pennsylvania Medical Society as the Senior Vice
President for Political Affairs, he served as a lobbyist at the state and national levels
for more than 34 years.

Benjamin Rush
(1746 - 1813)

T

he physician Benjamin Rush was both a medical and political prodigy. He courageously treated smallpox patients, promoted public health, served in the Continental
Army and was an advocate for mental health treatment reform. Politically, he was
a close associate of the founding fathers.

Rush was one of four physician patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Not yet a member of the Second Continental Congress when the Declaration was approved
on July 4th, when the Declaration was formally signed on August 2nd Rush had secured
an appointment to serve in the Congress.
Physicians interested in politics have several role models, both historical figures and
contemporary individuals, they can look to for inspiration.
William Darlington, MD, of Chester County served three terms in the US House
of Representatives between 1815 and 1823. A widely acclaimed botanist, he also served
as President of the National Bank of Chester County and President of the West Chester
Railroad. He was a founder of the Chester County Medical Society.
William Darlington
(1782 - 1863)

From 1919-1946, George Woodward, MD, served as a Republican State Senator from
Philadelphia's 6th District. A community activist, Woodward was also an outspoken
opponent of the New Deal.
John Cavender, MD, was the most recent physician legislator in Pennsylvania. A
Republican State Representative from Susquehanna County, he served in the House from
1963 to 1966. Like Rush, Cavender also served in the Army Medical Corps.
Since 1965 there have been numerous physician candidates for state and federal legislative
office on the ballot in Pennsylvania. They've run, albeit unsuccessfully, in primary and
general elections and they have run for the PA House, the State Senate and the Congress.
In Montgomery County recently a one-time Congressional primary candidate, Valerie
Arkoosh, MD, was named a Montgomery County Commissioner and in 2019 won election
to a second term. Dr. Arkoosh is Chair of the Board of County Commissioners.

George Woodward, MD
(1863 - 1952)

The most recent physician candidate, Jennifer Rager-Kay, MD, ran in the 2019 special
election for the PA House 85th district in Snyder and Union counties. A Democrat, she
could not overcome the district's strong GOP registration margin in that race or in her 2018

26 CHESTER COUNT Y Medicine | WINTER 2020


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Chester County Medicine Winter 2020

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