BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Atlanta, GA October 3, 2020: In our ongoing series, NRI Pulse is interviewing Georgia’s political candidates ahead of the November elections. Dr. Rich McCormick, Republican nominee running for election to the U.S. House to represent Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, talked spoke to us recently.
A physician and veteran, Dr. McCormick served for more than 20 years in the Marine Corps and Navy as a pilot and emergency medicine physician, in combat zones of Africa, the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. He is a graduate of Morehouse School of Medicine, completed his residency in emergency medicine through Emory University while training at Grady Hospital and received an MCA from National University.
Rajeev Menon, who serves as Vice President at the CoHNA (Coalition of Hindus of North America), and the founder member of the Hindus of Georgia PAC, facilitated the interview.
You are an ER physician and a Marine Corps veteran. What motivated you to run for office and why do we need more physicians in Congress?
I went down to the Capitol a couple years ago with the Medical Association of Georgia—a bipartisan group supported by patient advocacy groups that were trying to find a solution for surprise billing, which affects about half of all Americans. And we were treated very unfairly by politicians. One of the people who was on the committee didn’t give us time to speak and didn’t allow a lot of questions. And it really got me angry to see how politicians who are sold out to special interests, were not allowing good legislation that was bipartisan, and supported by patient advocacy groups, to be passed. So, I got involved, with the encouragement of my fellow ER physicians, to try to find solutions to these hard problems. And I’m proud to say since that time, we came up with a solution here in Georgia to surprise billing. But those are the kind of solutions we need to bring on the national level.
Right now, doctors (in the USA) only have control over their own practice. Most doctors make far less than they did 10 years ago. So, if your premiums are doubling, and doctors are making less, where’s that money going? It’s certainly not going to us. We’re not in control of the system, literally doctors have very little input as to how healthcare is evolving right now. It has evolved by lobbyists and politicians. That’s not the right people to control medicine, just like you wouldn’t want lobbyists and politicians to control your business. Government is seldom the right answer to any of our solutions.
So that’s one of the main reasons I got involved in this race is because I feel like we in America are starting to lose control of our own destiny, and people keep on turning to the government for answers to our problems, and the government is usually the problem. They created the problem. And so I don’t think it’s good to come to turn to the same organization that created the problem and this goes for business problems, medical problems, education problems, energy problems, all the things we keep on thinking the government’s going to solve. I think individuals are much more adept at solving these problems.
Do we need more diversity, you know, people of color and women in particular in Congress?
Absolutely. You are seeing an increase in female leadership and minorities for sure. At the Republican convention, you saw Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, you saw people who are rising stars, and the Republican party needs that just like the Democratic party does. The Republican party actually favors being a minority or female. I can tell you, as the white guy who ran amongst 12 candidates, one of only two white males running, that the party was not in favor of me winning. And that’s because they want diversity. And I understand that. I didn’t take that personally at all.
I may be a white guy, but I’m also a Morehouse man. I taught at Morehouse College for four years as an associate professor. I went to Morehouse School of Medicine for four years and the same year that President Obama was elected President of the United States, I was elected student body president at a school that’s 60% female, 80% black and about 95% liberal. That’s because of who I am and the relationships I have with my classmates, no other reason.
I was elected by my peers because of great relationships. And I think that should be the focus, that people understand each other. Nikki Haley may be Indian, but I think she identifies very much as an American also. In other words, she has a great story to tell. And I think she’s very popular as a result, because she really talks about what’s good for America. And what’s good for America is good for all people because the ultimate minority is the individual. And that’s why we have a great Republic that represents the individual first. It takes individuals into account and their rights into account. It’s very bad and very dangerous when you have a majority of people that can vote, and then take away somebody else’s rights because they’re the majority. So that’s the great thing about America, the American Constitution, that it protects the individual, above all things.
Do you have a plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic? And are you satisfied with the way the US has handled the pandemic?
If you look at pandemics and where they reach their saturation, you’ll see it in India, Africa, Asia, the United States, South America, once you reach a community exposure rate of about 25%, you see the cases drop off rapidly. And that’s what we’ve seen here in Georgia. So, no matter what kind of controls you do, this disease has spread. We found this all over the world, no matter how much you lock down people, no matter how much you free people, you’re going to have exposure until we come up with a good vaccination, which we’re seeing streamlined for the first time. Faster than any other vaccination that’s ever existed. Mumps took about four years, it was one of the fastest we ever had in the past, this one’s going to be in less than a year. That’s phenomenal.
You have to understand the complexity of this pandemic. It’s a novel virus, and the way it works on our body, and that the treatments we’re going to have are evolving as well as the way we control this disease. Remember, the original intent was to flatten the curve. We did that. We had a second wave since then. In Georgia, we had a full ICU about a month ago. We had over 100 patients on the floor. In my hospital, it was packed. Now we’re down to a third of that volume at best. And we’re really emptying out the ICU, which is great. Which means that we weathered the storm. And now we’re building the herd immunity if it’s like any other virus we’ve ever had.
The question is, you know, how, what about the secondary effects? What are the long-term effects? We won’t know for years. So, should we be careful? Yes. Should we take measures to protect, especially those most vulnerable? Absolutely. Should we be concerned with athletes getting inflammation of the heart and other things? Absolutely. Do we have a lot to learn? Absolutely.
I think we’re doing the best we can. I don’t know one person who hasn’t taken this seriously, or who doesn’t want to do well. You know, you saw both Democrats and Republicans not taking this as seriously as they should have, I can get you sound bites from both. So, I don’t want to lay the blame at anybody’s feet. And this is the problem with politics. A lot of times we try to make this political rather than about people and solutions.
There was news report that the CDC has asked states to be ready for a vaccine distribution by November 1. Do you have any information about that?
You are going see some pushback by some people who are going to be scared about vaccinations. And I am a proponent of letting people have that choice at least because once you start forcing anybody to do anything, it gets scary in America, especially when we’re fiercely independent. With that said, I’m encouraging people to who are comfortable with that to get the vaccination. I think I’m comfortable with vaccinations myself, because I know that America is pretty good at vetting things. We don’t try to put things out on there in public health that are bad for people. And so, I’d be very surprised if they were to come up with a vaccination that can be bad for us.
The faster we can get people immune and ready for work again and feeling confident about this economy and getting back to interacting with people, the better we are. One of the things I’ve seen is mental health problems, abuse and drug abuse as a result of being isolated, depressed and being anxious for so many months. I’m definitely encouraging any kind of solution.
The 7% per country cap keeps high skilled Green Card applicants from countries like India and Mexico in a limbo for decades, if not their lifetimes. Do you have a plan to fix the broken immigration system?
Let me talk about the two countries you mentioned. We have some great immigrants from Mexico, that are doing a great job over here and have come here on work visas, who have gone back to their country and then have to wait for the lottery again and may or may not ever be able to come back. I know plenty of people who do yard work that have hired these folks who come here as immigrants legally, and do a great job, go back, follow the law, and then they’re not rewarded by being brought back over by the same employers. Why wouldn’t we reward that behavior and encourage those people? If they do it several times, encourage them to be citizens. I’ll put him first in mind because you prove you will follow the law, that you are a hard worker and that you are part of what makes America great. And then that would basically encourage people to follow the right behavior in the future.
When I talk about encouraging right behavior, if we have laws that actually encourage people to follow those and reward that with citizenship, or return visas, I think we’re in better shape. If you’re talking about India, and work visas, I think it should be greater than 7% and less than 7% depending on what year it is. If we’re in the middle of a recession, and we don’t have any jobs, then we are not going to have as many immigrants that year because that’s not good for America. You don’t want a bunch of people coming over here to sit and look at each other and say, “Man, I wish I had a job in America”. That’s not the American dream. However, when we have an exploding economy, which we can have again, and we will have again in the near future, I think that we should be able to expand past that 7%, especially from individuals who have a subset of skills that benefit our country. I’m all about solutions that make sense for America and Americans.
The Trump administration has temporarily suspended the H1 B program, which is very popular with Indian tech workers. Does the country need more H1 B workers at this time?
As soon as we get back on our feet, absolutely. So, right now, I know we are struggling as a country, that we have a lot of unemployed people. Even if you come here and you don’t have a job, that’s not going to help you. But as soon as our economy expands, again, I’m all for bringing as many people over here as possible, that can help us with our economy. And the more robust our economy is, the more people should be immigrating here, because we’ll need that. And that’s good for all people.
Despite Indian American students doing extremely well in Academy and extracurricular activity activities, and the Indian American doctors making headway in medical field, it is a known fact that they are discriminated against, when it comes to admissions and Ivy League schools and medical schools. How would you address this problem?
There is good news and bad news here. The good news is that they found that those same students, whether they go to an Ivy League school or not, end up with the same jobs. So, I think we in America and probably all over the world, overvalues Ivy League. There are great teachers at multiple schools throughout the United States. But we want that diploma saying, “I am from the Ivy League school, that’s how good I am”. But in the end, you’re going to make about the same amount of money.
That’s what I love about America. You don’t have to go to Yale and Harvard and Cornell and all those schools to be successful. Good people, good students get good jobs. Two of my three kids are going to go into the Marine Corps. And they’re going to follow my footsteps. The good news is that they’re patriotic, they love their country, and they will protect this country so that your son can invent things and make money.
I don’t even like that we have races, maybe we shouldn’t even have names on our applications. Maybe we should just have numbers on there. And then they select it based on a totally anonymous application that all they can see is our grades. Your admission would be based on merit and nothing else.
I’d say, your sons and daughters will succeed because you’ve done fine job raising them. They are outstanding in academics, they don’t get into trouble, by overdosing and getting drunk and showing up in my ER, they don’t speed, they don’t kill people. They’re ideal citizens.
More and more Indian Americans who have never been politically inclined before are coming out to support your campaign. What do you know about these people and their cultures?
I want to see people from all demographics succeed. That’s a sincere statement. I have great love for all minorities. I have great love for all people. My driving goals in life is to really serve this great nation, to serve other people, for your benefit, so that that we can all live together in harmony.
I really want to see the Indian community succeed because I think they are ideal citizens, ideal Americans, and they come here with great intent. And they do exactly what they come here for which is succeed. And they integrate in a great way because they keep their community intact. They also are very integrated with American culture, and American society. Business wise, they have great friendships and they don’t just keep to themselves. They integrate with the rest of Americans in creating things that benefit all of us. I mean, you make up 1% of the American population, but pay 6% of the taxes. That speaks of a high degree of success, which can be attributed to hard work, ingenuity, intelligence.
President Trump’s strong relationship with the Prime Minister has been very good for India. We are able to have strong bonds and trade– I think that some of that trade that we have with China can switch over to India.
I think it’s important to understand the very specific challenges in the Kashmir 370 plan, understanding the background of that, so you’re not demonized. Having representation in American politics is very important. Alfred John in Forsyth County is the first Indian who’s going to be elected as a Councilman. That’s huge. It’s great for the Indian community to have representation directly.
I think there needs to be more representation from the Hindu community, specifically on religious affairs and representation in the United States government so that you’re treated fairly, so you’re not demonized, so that we understand what’s happened in India is not about discrimination. Make the case all the time, that India used to have 5% Muslims now you’re up to 20%. That didn’t happen by accident. That’s a very accepting culture. But if you see what’s happened in Kashmir, where there’s literally people being raped, and mistreated and forced out because of their religious beliefs or their national background, that’s a crime. And I will say that anytime people are being oppressed, mistreated, demonized in politics, I stand with you.
We have over 100,000 Indians in my district. That’s important to make sure that you’re represented on the national level very well, so that you are understood and continue to be integrated without bias or discrimination.
Why should the community vote for you?
I think I’m very blessed to have strong relationships with people who can keep me accountable. You probably have over a hundred people in your community who have my phone number and have friendships with me. One out of every five doctors in our district is from the Indian community. I like to get to know people in your community. They are very hospitable, very gracious.
The media and politicians will never understand me. They paint me in a certain way. They think I’m about politics, and I’m not. I’m about people. We may not always agree but I’m going to listen to you, I’m going to represent you and I’m going to talk to you. Even though you’re only one out of 435 votes, which may not make much of a difference, if you have a problem you want to be able to get a hold of me, and make sure that you get your passport taken care of, that you’re seeing an appointment of Hindu background on a community that can actually represent you on a national level. That has nothing to do with vote. This has to do with the representation of your community.