Retired Cardiologist Aims At Health Care Reform
Editor’s note: this is the fourth in a series of stories highlighting Democratic candidates for the 23rd Congressional district.
Linda Andrei is one of five candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the June 26 primary in New York’s 23rd Congressional district. She hopes to take on incumbent Republican Tom Reed in November’s general election by using her unique knowledge set to appeal to constituents.
As a retired interventional cardiologist, Andrei has an educated perspective in health care and hopes to represent people who have had trouble with the system in the past. She notes that if one wants to employ others or be employed, you have to be healthy.
“I think that health care is essential, and it is central,” Andrei said.
Andrei also desires to bring more jobs to the 23rd district by investing in small businesses and vocational training. Jobs in renewable energy industries including wind, solar and geothermal power is another bulletpoint on Andrei’s list, and she believes those jobs would both end the need for a fossil fuels-dependent economy and help fix the unemployment problems in the district.
“I see (health care and jobs) as really connected; I don’t see them as separate issues,” Andrei said.
A health care specialist, Andrei has gone through training to specialize in internal medicine. She is a specialist in cardiology and looking into arteries and cleaning them out to treat heart disease, failure and attacks.
“Going to medical school wasn’t something girls did at that time,” said Andrei, who grew up in a working class family.
Andrei attended the University of Guadalajara medical school in Mexico. She also speaks fluent Spanish in part because of her stay there. Andrei likes challenges, so she took it upon herself to become an interventional cardiologist, only four percent of whom are women.
After serving as the director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory in a New York City hospital in Queens and professor of medicine and cardiology affiliated with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Andrei went into private practice in eastern North Carolina.
“I really got to live in rural America,” said Andrei, who became the only female cardiologist in a wide area of cotton farms.
After 9/11, Andrei returned to New York state and found a home in the Finger Lakes in district 23. She then practiced in Elmira, Montour Falls and Ithaca, where she now lives and volunteered at the Ithaca Free Clinic.
Andrei left medicine around 10 years ago and pursued a career as an artist.
She has served as an executive chief medical resident in New York City, chair of the board of the Tompkins County chapter of the American Red Cross and president of the Women’s Caucus of the Arts, New York chapter.
“I never imagined that I would run for office,” Andrei said. “I felt like I really should step up.”
She then set out to research the district and its pressing issues. Andrei noticed upset people at town halls and thought that joining the political sphere was a doable venture.
Andrei started her campaign in January and said the experience has been like practicing medicine again. She relates listening to the needs of patients to listening to the needs of constituents.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Andrei said. “You have to know how to listen. The patient will tell you what they need.”
Andrei notes that listening and being able to accommodate people’s needs is intellectually and interpersonally difficult. Andrei said one must touch people’s humanity and respond to pain and suffering.
Andrei feels privileged and wants to give back instead of sit on said privilege.
“When we’re able to help other people, we just do that,” Andrei said.
She also feels she is different from the other Democratic candidates in how much education and leadership experience she has.
“(The other candidates) don’t all have that kind of depth and breadth of experience,” Andrei said.
Andrei is aggravated with the way insurance companies are set up to make profits off of citizens and wants the U.S. to emulate successful health care practices found in other developed nations.
“I think our system is broken,” said Andrei, who doesn’t think the current system promotes good health.
A supporter of medicare for all, Andrei admires the institution of medicare that came about in the 1960s to fix people’s suffering. She thinks the Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction but was too diffused. Andrei favors a single-payer health care system that would prevent illness before it begins.
“Most of the illnesses we have are preventable,” said Andrei, who notes cancer and the opioid crisis as epidemics that can be fought before they begin.
Andrei supports a bill already introduced in the House called the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, which would end the need for private insurance companies providing necessary coverage as the government would pay for most medical care. If everybody paid into the system with taxes, it would reduce the cost of health care when citizens needed it, Andrei said.
“We really don’t need health insurance,” Andrei said. “I don’t believe there’s a place for (capitalism) when we’re most vulnerable.”
Andrei highlights that an American value is to care for each other and correlates that value with accomplishing things such as social security and medicare.
She has already explained her health care goals to Reed and is prepared to take on health care as her primary issue.
“It is not about me; it is not about Tom Reed. It is about serving the constituents in New York 23,” Andrei said. “I’m ready to collaborate in Congress, but I’m also ready to hold my ground when necessary.”
Andrei draws inspiration from Elizabeth Warren in modern politics for assisting American people through the 2008 banking crisis and admires Abigail Adams, who was a voice to her husband John Adams far from when women were considered equal to men.
Coming together outside of party ideology is a theme that appeals to Andrei. She wants government to protect people and elevate the common good.
“We’re really all the same. We want the same thing. We can all win in this together,” Andrei said.