Meet The Cancer Researcher Running For Congress

Westin, pictured here alongside his wife, also a researcher and surgeon, and his children, at a recent March For Science event. Westin For Congress

“We have to ask the question: Why did we need a science march in 2017?”

“We don’t have marches to say we love our families, or that puppies are good,” Jason Westin, an award-winning cancer researcher, tells IFLScience. “These subjects are self-evident – but something has changed in the country.

“We’re going through a period of time where logic and reason are getting turned upside down,” he says. “Things that should be self-evident suddenly aren’t.”

The passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) through the House a few weeks back prompted outrage from a vast swath of the American people. Insurers, lawmakers, patients, the working class, the middle class, and plenty of medical professionals – including the nation’s crème of the crop – derided it as being hugely detrimental to the health of the United States.

Westin, one such expert, told IFLScience at the time that “this bill would make America sicker.” Far from being a voice of protest, however, he’s one of the scientists that, with the help of 314 Action, are running for Congress.

Gearing up for a fight in Texas’ 7th district for the upcoming midterms, he took some time to explain to us why he needs to force change through the halls of power – and why science has no choice but to push back against the Trump administration.

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We put it to Westin that, considering all that science and research has achieved, it’s absurd that he is even running for office on a pro-science ticket in the first place. “I would not dispute that fact,” he shoots back.

“This is not a decision made on a whim; it was a well thought out process,” he notes. “It’s been percolating for a while, but it reached a boiling point with the election back in November.”

“Seeing what’s happened here in the US, with the Presidential campaign, with the Congressional campaign – science was further denigrated, Alternative Facts appeared, and now recently this debate over healthcare.”

The passage of the AHCA struck a particularly painful chord with Westin. Analyses show it will cut $880 billion from Medicaid, the social health program that ensures people on low incomes can still afford life-saving treatment. At the same time, it provides a similar tax break to Americans on the highest incomes.

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