Healthcare reform a top priority for Arkoosh

First in a series of pro­files of the can­did­ates run­ning for Allyson Schwartz’s va­cated con­gres­sion­al seat.

Val Arkoosh is the only Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate run­ning for Allyson Schwartz’s soon-to-be va­cated con­gres­sion­al seat who doesn’t have a back­ground in polit­ics. 

An an­es­thesi­olo­gist who spe­cial­izes in ad­min­is­ter­ing medi­cine dur­ing labor, Arkoosh is en­ter­ing the polit­ic­al arena be­cause, as she puts it, she wants to “make the com­munity health­i­er.”

But, for Arkoosh, that means more than well-vis­its and af­ford­able care.

“When I say health­i­er, it’s not just about be­ing able to go to the doc­tor, al­though that is an im­port­ant part of it,” Arkoosh said. “It means hav­ing a good edu­ca­tion, liv­ing in a safe neigh­bor­hood and hav­ing eco­nom­ic se­cur­ity so that people can pay the bills.”

Ori­gin­ally from the Mid­w­est, Arkoosh has lived in the Phil­adelphia area since 1986, when she re­lo­cated to com­plete her res­id­ency train­ing. She has prac­ticed medi­cine in the area ever since, at hos­pit­als such as Hahne­mann, Jef­fer­son and cur­rently the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania.

“Over the past 10 or 15 years or so, I was really watch­ing my pa­tients, most of whom were wo­men, in­creas­ingly strug­gling with just day-to-day is­sues,” Arkoosh said. “Is­sues like how to pay for medi­cine versus food versus the rent.”

She said that she no­ticed these is­sues “be­com­ing in­creas­ingly more com­mon.”

“Moms who pre­vi­ously were very hope­ful and op­tim­ist­ic about the life that this child they were likely to have were be­com­ing in­creas­ingly con­cerned that the op­por­tun­it­ies to have a happy healthy life were just not go­ing to be there,” Arkoosh said.

So, in 2005, she de­cided to pur­sue a mas­ter’s de­gree in pub­lic policy from Johns Hop­kins in Bal­timore so she could get to the bot­tom of her pa­tients’ woes.

She fin­ished her edu­ca­tion in 2007, and by the time Barack Obama was in of­fice she de­cided to travel to Wash­ing­ton to share her know­ledge about health-care policy. She traveled with the Na­tion­al Phys­i­cians Al­li­ance, and, as she puts it, “worked on policy de­vel­op­ment and lob­by­ing on the hill.”

While she wasn’t in of­fice, she got a taste of Wash­ing­ton polit­ics.

“I told my­self that if the op­por­tun­ity ever arose I would think about run­ning,” Arkoosh said. “I think that there are so many ca­reer politi­cians in Con­gress right now that that has taken over the dia­logue. We really need to change the con­ver­sa­tion and the only way we’re go­ing to do this is to send a dif­fer­ent kind of per­son to the table.”

Arkoosh met her Abing­ton born-and-raised hus­band here and the two raised their fam­ily in Spring­field Town­ship. 

She de­scribes her­self as a “busy mom,” with three chil­dren: a son who is 13 and boy and girl twins who are 11. 

Next May, she will face former U.S. Rep. Mar­jor­ie Mar­gol­ies, state Sen. Daylin Leach and state Rep. Brendan Boyle in the Demo­crat­ic primary. 

While Arkoosh lacks the polit­ic­al ex­per­i­ence and name re­cog­ni­tion of the oth­er three can­did­ates, she has man­aged to rake in the largest total amount of con­tri­bu­tions—$285,000 last quarter and $218,000 in the first quarter.

“I have had the highest amount of con­tri­bu­tions to my cam­paign be­cause people are really ex­cited about a per­son with my pro­file run­ning,” Arkoosh said. “I think you see that play out that even though I had no pre-ex­ist­ing email lists or con­tacts, I still had the most con­tri­bu­tions.”

She said that her op­pon­ents’ ex­ist­ing cam­paign in­fra­struc­tures are likely their greatest ad­vant­ages, but that her ex­pert­ise and past ex­per­i­ence will give her the edge come May.

“I think I will be able to hit the ground run­ning,” Arkoosh said. “I have a lot of re­spect for my op­pon­ents, but I feel that what dif­fer­en­ti­ates me is that I have con­sid­er­able back­ground in policy and I have very real world ex­per­i­ence that will help the people of the 13th in a way that I feel none of them can of­fer in Con­gress.” ••

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