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In this time of COVID-19, what better and safer way to get a group of people together to hear from and support a political candidate than with a virtual event?
Just such an event, held as an on-line Zoom call, provided an opportunity for 85 interested area citizens to meet Dr. Cameron Webb, the 5th district’s Democratic candidate for Congress.
The call was organized by Nina Gardner, Ron Goodman and the Rappahannock and Madison Democratic parties, and co-sponsored by John and Heidi Lesinski, Taikein Cooper, Mary-Sherman Willis, Patricia Underwood, Ed and Diane Murray, Ren LeVally, Jane Dittmar, Frank Squillace and this writer.
The candidate was introduced by former district congressman Tom Perriello, who highlighted that, if elected, Dr. Webb would be the first Black medical doctor in the U.S. Congress.
Without risk to their health and that of others, participants were able to get a first-hand overview from Dr. Webb of his personal background, highly accomplished education and career, and how that led to his decision to run. There followed a lively interactive question and answer period with attendees able to ask the candidate questions and comment via a real-time chat box.
It’s hard to capture in words the heightened excitement that participants felt as they listened to this talented young man speak about the urgent issues of our time. He spoke with energy and great intelligence, modesty and self-deprecating humor. He could field a wide range of questions, drawing from his experiences in the COVID wards at UVA, at the Obama White House, and as a father, a husband and a son.
The participants learned that Dr. Webb is from a very rural part of Spotsylvania County, and that his wife Leigh-Ann grew up in the southern part of the district, the daughter of a prominent minister. So between them they have a deep understanding of the Fifth district. He grew up in a family that valued service: his mom was a public school teacher and his father worked at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). As the third of six children he learned to be a consensus builder since childhood. He decided that he was going to use his passion for science and yearning for service in medicine.
At UVA medical school he learned about racial inequities in health outcomes, and saw the connection between health issues and civil rights issues. That inspired him to also complete a law degree complementing what he saw in the hospital with the problems he saw in communities.
Dr. Webb stressed how important he believed an emphasis on action was, not words and ideology. He described starting a student run clinic while still in medical school and how he decided to focus on internal medicine and community health instead of other medical specialties. The same action-oriented focus on service led him to apply for a White House fellowship, where he worked on healthcare policy under both presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
He practises as an internal medicine physician at UVA, which means that he is taking care of folks with COVID, as is his wife, an emergency room physician. Dr. Webb also does a weekly coronavirus information online program. This front-line experience provides a special vantage point to see how the pandemic has exposed health inequities, and to understand what has to happen for the nation to effectively tackle the crisis. As a doctor and a lawyer with a focus on health law, he serves as the director of Health Policy & Equity at UVA School of Medicine and as a professor teaching on health policy in the USA. And this couple is doing all that while trying to stay safe raising two kids under ten and dealing with decisions like virtual education.
In that vein, Dr. Webb emphasized the need to address broadband access as a crisis that the pandemic has exacerbated, especially in places like Rappahannock County.
— The writer lives in Castleton.
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