Chester County Medicine Winter 2020 - 27

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race against the incumbent. An otolaryngologist, Dr. Rager-Kay surely faced the same career
decision that confronted other practicing physicians who are potential legislative candidates.
The challenges of entering the political process are formidable. The time and financial
commitments essential for a competitive campaign, which might not be successful, make
the decision difficult for everyone. To get on the ballot in a party primary, or as an independent, petitions must be circulated and signed by a sufficient number of constituents, a
campaign committee formed to advise the candidate on strategy, a campaign fund raising
apparatus created to legally receive and expend funds and significant time spent formulating and giving speeches about relevant policies and political issues. For every candidate,
fundraising is constant.
Candidates need political credibility. They must be personally and financially involved,
and recognized, as politically active. Being registered to vote and voting in every primary
and general election is critical. Writing op-ed pieces and letters to the editor on political
and community issues builds name identity. Actively engaging in community focused
projects and organizations is important. Carefully analyzing the political environment to
plan campaign strategy is fundamental.

John C. Cavender, MD
(1919 - 1994)

Physicians are well respected professionals, so physician candidates have unique knowledge and skills that should be an advantage in a political campaign. The challenge is to
convert clinical accomplishments into political credentials. Focusing on health issues in
the community and emphasizing your experience in listening to patients is a start.
Winning the election brings additional problems. Benjamin Rush was paid 20 shillings a
day for serving in Congress, the equivalent of $146 in current dollars. Today state legislators'
base salary is $90,300 and Members of Congress earn $174,000 annually. At both levels
there are additional perks and benefits. While there are no prohibitions on state legislators
earning outside income, there are at the federal level. Many state legislators sustain their
pre-election career while others commit fully to their service as a legislator and withdraw from
outside employment interests. The political calculation may be that continuing to practice
as a physician, even in a limited capacity, can accentuate your service to the community.

Valerie Arkoosh

Every state and federal legislator has to balance family and other personal interests and
obligations against the challenge of representing thousands of constituents, running a legislative
district office and competently engaging in the give and take of legislative voting sessions.
It's time to find the physician legislative candidate in Pennsylvania who will follow
physicians Benjamin Rush, William Darlington, George Woodward, John Cavender, Valerie
Arkoosh and Jennifer Rager-Kay into the political arena.
Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) - Physician and politician. Member of the Second Continental Congress and Pennsylvania General Assembly, Surgeon General of
the Continental Army and professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Considered the founder of American psychiatry. Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Rekindled the broken relationship between founding fathers John Adams
and Thomas Jefferson.

Jennifer Rager-Kay, MD

WINTER 2020 | CHESTER COUNT Y Medicine 27


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Chester County Medicine Winter 2020

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