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The Republican race for Pennsylvania governor: WPSU talks with Nche Zama

Nche Zama
Eileen Noelle White
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Nche Zama, a heart surgeon in the Poconos, is one of the candidates running in the crowded 2022 Republican primary for the nomination to be governor.

The Democratic primary for Governor is not competitive in Pennsylvania this year. But nine Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination to be governor. WPSU invited all those candidates for interviews leading up to the May 17th primary. Here’s the conversation WPSU’s Anne Danahy had with Nche Zama.

Anne Danahy 
Nche Zama, thank you for talking with us.

Nche Zama 
Oh, my pleasure.

Anne Danahy 
You're a heart surgeon and chemist, and you've said that Pennsylvania is sick and needs a heart surgeon for governor. In what way is the state sick? And how would you address that?

Nche Zama 
In numerous ways. If you look at our state government, and then you look at our state in general. And if you start back and see how the COVID crisis kind of unveiled a lot of deficiencies in our healthcare system, in particular, in the state, we tend to be more reactive than proactive. And if you see the vast majority of the people who are dying from COVID, were folks in the inner city, and folks who had pre-existing or pre0morbid conditions, whether it's COPD, whether it's diabetes, hypertension, obesity, which is an epidemic in our state, and cardiovascular disease. And so, over the years, we've kicked this can down the line, we've not addressed these issues as in preventive medicine. So we've allowed people to stay in extremely high risk categories, and more and more people each year. And so a COVID virus hits, and we're caught off guard. And unfortunately, the focus was just shots, shots, shots, shots, and it wasn't holistic. And predictably, the outcomes were miserably poor.

And then you see what has happened. With our children with now the vast majority of the kids are one of the most common causes of death in our kids is suicide, because of that mismanagement, mask mandates— and I'm not, by the way, anti-vax, let me just say that disclaimer — I believe, for the more holistic type of leadership, and that was woefully missing during this crisis. And so now we have mental illness, so prevalent in our mothers and people in general, drug use, and abuse has gone through the roof, and what else, the educational system was up ended during the crisis, and we got to see just how terrible our educational system is. So I want our children, all our children, from all zip codes, to have the best education, and also to aspire for excellence.

Also, our educational system is woefully lacking in vocational education. And I think that's something that is extremely important. And finally, school choice. And so if you look Summerlee, we've been going in the wrong direction. I've learned one thing. We pump billions into education into into Pennsylvania, into our schools. And we're the largest export of graduates. There's clearly something wrong.

Anne Danahy 
If you were elected governor, can you give us specifics about what you would do to prepare the state for future pandemics? You talked about kind of how things went wrong. In your opinion, how would you prepare the state for future problems?

Nche Zama 
First thing I will do is establish a Department of Interceptive Medicine and Pandemic Preparedness. And what does that mean? We start addressing many of these risk factors in our population. Preventive medicine, my sister, is always better than treatment. And so we'll start identifying populations at risk and addressing those risk factors. Because there are 24 viruses out there. One of them is going to enter in the next couple of days. And another thing we need to do is, you know, technology and healthcare are so intertwined, there are vast swaths of this state without broadband, and in this era of telemedicine, if you live out in Sullivan County, or somewhere up in, you know, McKean County, you're in the wilderness, and you're disconnected from the rest of the state and really the rest of humanity, and in case of a medical crisis — and I've traveled this entire state, up and down west to east — and they're so disconnected from technology. That's one of the first things that I will do, is to be sure that technology is available. A pregnant mother up in McKean County, in the middle of the winter, in the middle of a pandemic is in trouble if she can't reach a doctor somewhere, physically, and cannot even reach a doctor electronically. That's a travesty that needs to be corrected. That's one of the things that I will do.

Anne Danahy 
On the higher education front, Pennsylvania ranks at the bottom when it comes to higher education funding per student. And when it comes to post secondary education, whether we're talking about technical school, or a four year degree or medical degrees, what, if anything, do you think the state should be doing differently to make it more affordable?

Nche Zama 
So there's a couple of things. We're not necessarily poor as a state, we're just not managed well. We need revenue to be able to address, to offset some of the deficiencies and these fissures in the pillars of government that we talked about. But one of the things we have, my sister, beneath us is tremendous energy resources. I think we can use those energy resources beneath us. And I'm talking to the tunes of hundreds of billions of dollars, we would be the fourth, we're the fourth largest resource for energies in the world right now, if we were a country. And so if we opened up the use of those resources by eliminating these archaic policies that we have that are restraining us. Open new markets. One of the biggest constraints for economic growth in developing countries around the world is what? Energy deficiency. And we can address that.

A couple other things, eco tourism, medical tourism, which we have not exploited. So all of these opportunities, if we exploited them, open them up, we can now have tremendous revenue that we can address these educational issues, the underfunding. And also our tax policies as so prohibitive of business growth, where we have one of the highest corporate taxes in American businesses don't want to move here. Lowering those taxes will help businesses to grow better and faster, and it would encourage our graduates to stay in the state. There a lot of kids at Lehigh University, Bucknell, and places like that, Penn State University, walking around these great institutions with a billion dollars in their laptop computers. They don't want to stay here. When they graduate, where do they go? To the airport to North Carolina, Texas, California. And if you change these business policies and regulations, they'll be able to stay here in the state, and then opening up new opportunities around the world, as I said in energy and agriculture. Can you begin to see now, why we can take this economy from $800 billion GDP right now to a trillion dollars in just a few years. And with that increasing revenue. And just using some critical thinking here, you can see how we can use that to offset many of the deficiencies we have, and uplifting segments of our society.

Anne Danahy 
In just a few sentences. If you were elected, what would your top priority be?

Nche Zama 
My top priority would be to unite, because my sister, no agenda means anything if we're disunited. And we're the most polarized I've ever seen. I want to bring all the factions together. Because we must be united. We don't have to be uniform. I believe in unity and not uniformity. But we need to focus on a common agenda and a common future. When we can do that, then we can start working on crafting strategies to address education to address health care, to address our economy, and we can make this a premier state in the union and a beacon light of hope for all.

Anne Danahy 
Nche Zama, thank you so much for talking with us.

Nche Zama 
It's been a pleasure. And I pray God blesses you today and always.

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