Vowing that if he is elected he would be the “warrior from the Serengeti in Harrisburg,” dr Nche Zama, a retired cardiothoracic surgeon, told a group of supporters in Montoursville that he is running for governor for the next generation.
Zama shared with the crowd about how his journey began in a grass hut village in Africa, where he was raised by two “Christian, very loving, very strict, illiterate subsistence farmers.”
His journey took him from that village as a teenager to New York City where he arrived alone, homeless and with very little funds. Hey credits “angel” along the way that helped him receive an education which eventually led to becoming a heart-lung surgeon. He had a stint at Williamsport Hospital before moving to Guthrie, at Sayre, so he said that he was familiar with the area.
Drawing on the theme of being the doctor who can cure the ills in the state, Zama spoke of the issues he feels the citizens are facing.
“There are a lot of issues facing people in Pennsylvania. And it’s just like a doctor when somebody comes in with a heart problem, usually they have lung problems. In addition they may have kidney problems which are all important because if you only address one and don’t address the rest of them, you will never restore complete and in good health,” he said in an interview before meeting with the group.
“For Pennsylvania in particular, I would say that…there’s so much social disunity and polarization. We’re too polarized,” he said.
“Without focusing on a common agenda, people will never come together to work to solve the state’s problems.
“I want to be the unifying governor that brings every fact together because in the final analysis, we’re all Pennsylvanians, we’re all Americans and the future and the destiny of the state is important to all of us,” he added.
Energy is high on the list of issues that need to be addressed, Zama said.
“(The state) is sitting on the largest reserves of energy in the world — greater than Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Reflecting back on his childhood where he grew up with the only illumination coming from a kerosene lantern, Zama said, “I’ve always thought about energy and it’s taken me back to those days…I look at it from a really deeper perspective than a lot of people do,” Zama said.
Energy is important to residents of the state not only from the human aspect — the need for affordable energy — but also for economic growth.
“With our energy resources, we can actually build this economy. We can pull in a significant amount of revenue. We’ll open up new markets overseas which is what I’d like to do,” he said.
“That revenue that comes in can be used to address so many of the challenges we grapple with socially in our communities,” he said.
Another important aspect of energy is national security.
“I want to be able to address and remove and eliminate those cumbersome policies and regulations that have been holding us back,” Zama said.
Although he said that he was in favor of clean energy, he contended that it is not “ready for prime time.”
“I want Pennsylvania to be No. 1 in clean energy research, so that when we get to that point where we can transition, we will be ready. Windmills cannot run our massive industries in Pennsylvania right now,” he said.
Establishing a pandemic management and interceptive medicine council would be one of the steps Zama would take as governor to deal with any viruses that might develop in the future. He argued that the COVID pandemic was “woefully mismanaged” and that masking and the shutdowns that occurred were not “grounded in science and technology.”
“We as Americans have been very reactive and not proactive. We knew about these viruses. We knew there was the possibility of a pandemic coming even more than a decade ago. We didn’t prepare for it,” he said.
“I want Pennsylvanians to be healthier, and that’s why I talk about interceptive medicine. Not waiting until something happens. If we do that, we’ll be ready for the next pandemic and our responses and outcomes would be better,” he said.
Allied with healthcare, Zama said that he feels that residents of the state pay too much for pharmaceuticals.
“There are many parts of the state that have pharmacy and hospital deserts,” he said.
Broadband or rather the absence of it in parts of the state is another critical issue Zama addressed.
With the rise in telemedicine, Zama said that he feels that issue becomes even more important.
“We’re in an era now of telemedicine and without telemedicine capabilities in many of the counties, it puts human lives in jeopardy.
“I’ve been to communities, even up in Sullivan County…where people say, ‘We don’t have broadband. We don’t have the internet, it’s rough. When somebody’s sick, we have to drive somewhere to a rendezvous point where they can pick them up.’ It just sounds like a third world country,” Zama said.
“They have labeled me the rural candidate because I have spent so much of my career in rural Pennsylvania. Yes, things are different here. They’re not Philadelphia. They’re not Pittsburgh. Healthcare is non-existent in many parts of rural Pennsylvania,” he said.
In terms of crime in the state, Zama believes that it is closely tied to education.
“I’m going to be one of the strongest drum majors for education ever because the only banner that I want our children to carry is a banner of excellence. All of those theories that are being injected into kids’ minds are really irrelevant and don’t bring them any value,” he said.
“Our children are not getting the education we got. It’s been watered down. They’ve been injecting all these theories into their minds,” he said.
To do this, Zama said that he was a pro-school choice. He also believes that parents should have more skin in the game and that vocational schools should be accessible, within an hour’s drive of every county in the state.
“We need welders. We need electricians. We need plumbers. Kids should start getting exposed to options of vocation careers from elementary school, not after graduation from high school. Not every kid needs to follow the classical pathway of high school to college,” Zama said.
Educating children so that they can obtain meaningful and life sustaining work after high school is a way to deter crime, Zama said.
Saying that he was the candidate that can bring people together, Zama asked the crowd, “What have these politicians done for you over the years except make promises they can’t keep?”
Citing his work as a surgeon, Zama said that he was used to having a “high performance team” around him.
“Our state government needs a high performance team in every pillar of our government. We’ve accepted mediocrity for too long. If you set low standards. Expect poor outcomes,” he added.
“The only person Josh Shapiro doesn’t want to face in November is a 14-year-old from a grass hut who didn’t take welfare; that worked two three jobs; that was a Ph.D in chemistry; a master’s in management; who knows how to run organizations, finance; an MD who’s traveled the world operating on babies; who has saved thousands of lives, including some that may be related to him; and who’s preaching excellence and not diversity. I’m a nightmare for the Democratic Party and a tsunami for him,” Zama said.