A typical day for Dr. Pritesh Gandhi begins at around 4:45 am. He gets up and reviews his patient chart for those he has to see in the morning, followed by some writing, including notes and reminders.
Then the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Congress from District 10 in Texas, goes to his community health clinic where he dons his Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, to see those patients whose symptoms worry him.
On an average he sees 8 patients in those morning hours. But he tallies the number he saw the day of this interview, June 3, 2020, and comes up with the number 7. As a whole, though, all the clinicians in his community health practice test hundreds of patients for Covid-19 based on their symptoms.
His afternoons and evenings are spent campaigning to win the District 10 party primary against fellow Democrat Mike Siegel.
In his interview with News India Times, Gandhi says he was deeply influenced by the year he spent in India as a Fulbright Scholar 15 years ago, working on a literacy and education program and an urban landfill at a non-profit.
“I realized that systems are designed to produce the very outcomes that many of us advocate against,” Gandhi said. “What that meant fo rme was that to truly make an impact on marginalized populations, we need to have them at the table when the systems are designed.”
“So for me, as a physician, seeing the day-to-day struggles of these communities had a profound impact,” determining his decision to return to the U.S. to get his public health degree and his medical degree.
Gandhi and Siegel were the top two vote getters in the March 3 open primaries, with Siegel getting 44 percent of the vote to Gandhi’s 33.1, Ballotpedia reported. However, the runoff which was scheduled to take place in May has been postponed by the governor to July 14 because of COVID-19.
“We are still balancing between campaigning and seeing patients,” Gandhi said.
There are some differences in their platforms with Gandhi supporting ‘Medicare for all that want it” and Siegel wanting the single- payer universal health care option, Ballotpedia noted. Siegel has another thing going for him. He came reasonably close to his Republican opponent, incumbent Congressman Michael McCaul in 2018, garnering 47 percent of the vote to McCaul’s 51 percent.
About the current healthcare situation, Gandhi says, “The structural inequities present before COVID, are apparent,” during the pandemic. “We are seeing suffering that was avoidable,” he contends.
He recalls one of his patients made the choice not to go to hospital even though Gandhi advised the person to do so and was “very worried” them. But the patient did not have insurance.
“That’s is the impossible choice. That’s the kind of patients I treat. The patient made a choice not to go to hospital so we did our best to follow up as best we could regularly. It’s a shame that in the year 2020, finance or your wealth dictates your health,” Gandhi said.
He said he has been reaching out to “communities of color” around Texas and the country as a whole. But “I’m laser focused on District 10.”
People want “authentic voices” regardless of religion or race or other diverse criteria, on Capitol Hill, and Gandhi thinks he fits the bill. “A diverse Congress is better equipped to deliver the needs of the American people.”
A primary care physician, internist, and pediatrician on the frontlines of the pandemic, Dr. Gandhi serves as the Associate Chief Medical Officer at the community clinic in East Austin. According to a profile sent to News India Times, Dr. Gandhi’s clinic serves 20,000 uninsured and underinsured patients who are disproportionately impacted by COVID. Despite that, his clinic is still unable to get the PPE they need to stay safe, the profile says.
As a result, they have had to use tupperware to store their n95 masks since they don’t have enough to dispose of them, his campaign said, adding that just this week, he took a batch of donated N95s they received to the Travis County Department of Health to determine if they are still effective since the masks expired in 2014, his campaign said.
Dr. Gandhi also teaches at the Dell Medical School in the Department of Population Health.
After his Fullbright Scholarship, Gandhi went on to be awarded a Schweitzer Fellowship to focus on urban nutrition in Boston, followed by becoming a National Health Service Corps scholar. He completed his medical residency in both internal medicine and pediatrics at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he trained at safety net hospitals and clinics.
In 2012, after the Sandy Hook school shooting he founded a group called ‘Doctors Against Gun Violence’ and advocated for a public health approach to tackling gun violence. In 2018 he was a Presidential Leadership Scholar.
Dr. Gandhi studied economics and international relations at Tufts University and the London School of Economics and received his MD/MPH from Tufts University School of Medicine.
He lives in Austin with his wife Monisha, a teacher, and their three young children.