U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo, whose district includes Stanford, stressed the importance of policy and regulation in allowing for healthcare innovation during a Tuesday conversation with Kavita Patel, a senior policy advisor at the Byers Center for Biodesign.
Eshoo, who represents California’s 18th congressional district and chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, told The Daily she hopes people in the United States can foster healthcare breakthroughs in epidemiology.
“When someone is diagnosed with a given disease, it is a death sentence,” Eshoo said. “I want to see America find the cures.”
“If we don’t get the policies and the regulations right,” Eshoo added, “all the innovation and brilliance that’s here in this room can just die on the vine.”
Healthcare was a stated priority in Eshoo’s first bid for office in 1988, she said during the speech. Eshoo said she witnessed people taking buses to clinics in faraway towns. But Eshoo said people told her she was “crazy” for running on that platform.
She said that during that first election, the press, specifically the San Mateo Times, heavily influenced elections in her district. Without major funding, Eshoo explained, her campaign had to get creative, so they made a video that they distributed to 110,000 people, a much cheaper strategy than running TV ads.
When deciding to run, “I didn’t think of myself as a member of Congress,” Eshoo said. The congresswoman said it was rare to see women in the newspaper or politics, and even though she gained experience on the campaign trail, she ultimately lost that first race.
In 1992, Eshoo did not intend to run again. But she said that many women in her personal life encouraged her to enter the race. Eshoo said she decided to run when she realized that “it’s not about me. I’m a vehicle for people.” This time, she was elected to the House of Representatives.
Upon arrival in Washington, D.C., Eshoo said she set her sights on the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the most competitive House committees for new members to join. However, Eshoo said she landed her spot when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, wanting to sidestep more senior representatives whom he disagreed with, gave her the seat in her second term.
“I was thrilled,” she said.
After more than a decade on the committee’s Health Subcommittee, Eshoo became the first woman to chair the subcommittee in 2019.
Though she described the healthcare industry and the country’s current politics as difficult, she said, “America is worth it.”
“I would never diminish where we are right now,” Eshoo said. “But we stand on the shoulders of greats. Always keep in mind we owe something to this country.”