The night after Donald Trump’s election, the first patient Dr. Mai-Khanh Tran saw was a young girl with a brain tumor whose mother had been unable to get health insurance for her until the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Together with the girl’s mother, Tran recalls, they cried over the grim reality — if Republicans got their way and repealed Obamacare, the young girl would effectively be condemned to death.
Months later, the mother called Tran to tell her she was “petrified” over the passage of the American Health Care Act — the Republican repeal of Obamacare that would have defunded Planned Parenthood, left an estimated 23 million fewer people without insurance, and allowed insurance companies to charge through-the-roof premiums for chronic and pre-existing conditions. Shaken, Tran realized she had to try to do something. In the end, she decided she would run for Congress in Orange County, California, against a Republican incumbent who had represented her district for more than 20 years.
In 1975, a 9-year-old Tran immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam after her father, a prominent Saigon judge, helped evacuate her and her three siblings from the city with the help of the U.S. military. In the U.S., Tran’s father no longer qualified as a judge — instead, he worked cleaning a courthouse. Tran recalled how the whole family slept together in the living room of their apartment — in order to survive, they had to sublet the apartment’s only bedroom to a rich college student.
Despite that, Tran went on to graduate first in her class and was accepted into Harvard University. Tran paid her own way through Harvard by working three jobs simultaneously — as a janitor, security guard, and reader for the blind.
“I cleaned the jocks’ dorm,” said Tran. “The rich kids’ dorm. And, you know, they throw out a lot of things. I remember picking up things that we could use. I don’t think I ever felt like I belonged there.”
After Harvard, Tran went onto medical school and later opened her own practice in Fountain Valley, California, where she has spent the last 25 years treating a community largely made of working-class immigrants. Ever industrious, Tran also led thrice-yearly medical missions to those most in need across the globe — including leper colonies in her native Vietnam. Those missions, Tran believes, helped prepare her for tasks that she thinks should be considered important for members of Congress — creating access to work, education, and health care.
Tran is also a two-time breast cancer survivor who managed a pregnancy through in vitro fertilization at the age of 46. She is no stranger to beating long odds. But even if the political neophyte manages to win the Democratic primary, she’ll face a formidable adversary: Republican incumbent Ed Royce won his last re-election campaign with 57 percent of the vote. For what it’s worth, Tran says that’s she’s different from her potential opponent in at least two ways — she knows how to listen, and she actually works in health care.
“I’m a good listener. As a physician, that’s all I do. I listen to my patients. I listen to their pain, their suffering, their concerns. That’s what I’m good at. Then hopefully I’ll try to find a solution that might alleviate their pain, their suffering, their concerns,” Tran said. “I don’t think that’s what people are doing in the political sphere right now. They have agendas.”
Read the full story at Yahoo News.