Randy Jotte is ready for a challenge. An emergency physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and an associate professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Jotte is competing for Missouri’s vacated 2nd Congressional seat. In this, his first run for national office, Jotte will have to first get through a tough Republican primary. But the Missouri native believes his values of integrity, fiscal responsibility, and country first will win the hearts and minds of voters.
EPM: Tell us about your personal history and how that history shaped your desire to run for Congress.
Dr. randy jotte: I was born and raised in St. Louis. I graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1982 and then attended Oxford University on a Fulbright Scholarship. After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1987, I moved south to Washington, D.C, where I completed the George Washington-Georgetown-University of Maryland Joint Emergency Medicine Residency Program in 1991. While in D.C., I met my wife Susan, who also happens to be a St. Louis native. My wife and I always found it interesting that, while we grew up just a few miles apart, we didn’t meet until we were halfway across the country. We have been married 20 years, and we have two sons.
My profession and my patients have most shaped my desire to serve in Congress. Over two decades of clinical practice as an emergency room physician, I estimate I have cared for more than 50,000 patients, one at a time. While their names may be long forgotten, so many of their personal stories remain with me, having left a deep impression. I hope and believe I have positively impacted many of their lives.
The current crisis in health care, and particularly emergency care, reflects the importance of making an impact on a much larger scale through sound health care policy. Such impacts can be made through several avenues: advocacy, influencing public opinion, and directly participating in the legislative process. I have served as an advocate for our patients and profession through state and national professional societies like ACEP and Missouri ACEP, including service on the Missouri ACEP Board of Directors and as President. I have attempted to impact public opinion on issues like repeat DWI offenders and the need for sufficient inpatient psychiatric facilities through guest editorials in regional and statewide newspapers. One of the most effective ways to impact the process is by sharing these stories, experiences and impressions as a member of the legislative body forming policy. I seek to do just that as a member of Congress.
What are the top issues that you feel will face the nation in the coming years?
Ensuring access to quality health care, especially Medicare, and reducing the federal budget deficit are the central issues. I spent much of the summer preparing for a Grand Rounds presentation on Medicare. Yuval Levin, a health care policy specialist, effectively summarized the situation: “Medicare is at the center of both our health care dilemma and our fiscal crunch, and it will be very difficult to avoid a calamitous debt crisis without making changes to the program’s basic structure.” Emergency physicians, with a broad and deep understanding of our health care system, must be present at the legislative table as these changes are debated.
How has your experience as an emergency physician prepared you to represent your constituents and the nation at large on these issues?
The emergency room is an incredible window into both the health care system and society at large. We are the front door to the House of Medicine. I have seen first hand what is working and what is failing in both the community health care system and hospitals. My patients come from all parts of society, so I have become broadly familiar with patients’ habits, strengths and limitations. My understanding of patients, and the system, as an emergency physician provides sound judgment and insight as to whether proposed solutions are valid in the real world.
Given that the nation has become soured to some degree on “political insiders,” what is your political experience in getting things done?
In the past, I served 10 years in local government. I believe I was effective because I always worked as a “team player” and treated colleagues with respect. We would agree on many matters and disagree on a few, but never took differences of opinion personally. I always made an extra effort to understand my colleagues’ positions when they differed from mine. That’s also how I practice in the emergency room; that’s how I will practice in Congress.
How can emergency physicians support your candidacy if they so desire?
Make a contribution at www.randyjotte.com. So much of a campaign comes down to having the funds to share your message with voters in the district, and that takes money. If you live in the District or have family here you also can sign up to volunteer through www.randyjotte.com.
Given the continued economic pressures on the country, what healthcare reforms would you propose as a member of Congress?
We need to eliminate unnecessary care, such as mandatory hospitalizations for missed dialysis appointments or three-day hospitalizations prior to nursing home admissions. We also will need patients to be informed and prudent users of health care resources by making the costs, risks and benefits more transparent.
What role do you see for government to improve the overall healthcare of patients seen in the emergency department?
Some medical problems arise without any identifiable cause, while others result from lifestyle choices. We can only really impact the latter. While patients will always make their own decisions regarding lifestyle, many have the capacity to make the right decision when clearly understanding the likely consequences and having some basic resources to help them. This may be something as simple as having a dietician help them identify “junk calories” in their diet or how to slowly but gradually start an exercise program. Once informed, and thereby empowered, some patients will have the capacity to make real and healthy changes in their lives.
How do you believe you can be effective as an individual Member of Congress given the partisanship that we see in Washington?
While I am a Republican candidate, I am not a big fan of partisan politics. Partisanship leads to gridlock, and we can see what that has, or rather hasn’t, accomplished in D.C. I’ve always considered myself to be a problem-solver who brings people together. I realize that I will not agree with my colleagues on every issue. However, I will always seek to find common ground, focusing not on political wins but on policy to advance America.
Why do you believe you can win your election in your district in 2012?
I am running for an open seat being vacated by Congressman Todd Akin. While there isn’t a well-defined incumbent, I am facing off against establishment politicians in an election environment in which voters are looking for a different kind of representation. I believe this race offers significant opportunity for an emergency room physician who can relate to real-life issues while still handling the complex issues of the day. I have a unique profile along with a message that resonates with those fed up with institutional politicians. With adequate financing, we’re convinced this race provides a unique opportunity