Posted by on July 02, 2010 in Blog
Working the graveyard shift as a medical professional can be an extremely taxing experience. How about negotiating that with the demands of a daytime job as well? Arab American Arizona State Representative Matt Heinz does just that—legislator by day, doctor by night, Heinz serves his community in a multitude of ways.
Born in Michigan, Heinz is half Lebanese and half German. His grandfather immigrated to Colorado, where his mother was born. Describing visits with his grandfather as a child, Heinz recalls his welcoming nature interspersed with occasional inappropriate remarks in Arabic. Heinz attended Albion College in Michigan and graduated Summa Cum Laude, then entering the field of medicine where he studied medicine at Wayne State followed by a fellowship at Harvard. Following medical school, Heinz moved to Arizona to begin his residency. Since arriving in Arizona, Heinz has worked at three different hospitals: the University Medical Center, the Tucson Medical Center, and the Southern Arizona VA. Working as both a clinician and a coordinator for medical treatment has exposed Heinz to not just a broad range of medical experience, but also led to unpleasant awareness of the frustrating American health care system.
Heinz bluntly recounts how he “continued to figure out how screwed up the health care system is” during this residency period and how it is “frustrating to take the Hippocratic Oath, but not be able to help your patients.” As a result of this frustration, Heinz decided to run for state office with the realization that legislators have the power to change. “As a doctor, I can heal upwards of 2,000 people a year”, but “if I can affect policy I can help 6.4 million Arizonians.” With the campaign slogan “Healing Arizona Together,” Matt Heinz was elected in 2008 and continues to work towards reforming health care for Arizona residents. In addition to supporting health care reform, Heinz also discussed his support for expanding the provision of public education. Demonstrating how Thomas Jefferson inspired his support for public education, Heinz explained that supporting access to free education for everyone “keeps the small d in democracy”, and is essential for preserving our future.
When asked about his experience as an Arab American politician, Heinz explained that his heritage enabled him to skillfully assuage potential allies in the legislature, as he can “appreciate differences” and compromise artfully. With this diplomatic nature, Heinz has successfully sponsored three bills, a huge accomplishment for his first year on the job. As an Arab American, Heinz also discussed his perceptions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law established this past April.
Heinz explained that the motivations for enacting the contentious legislation remain muddled, though much of the bill’s support derived from a fear based agenda. Articulating his support for legal immigration, Heinz explained that the United States “is growing because of the people we bring in…we are assaulting a vibrant, growing, activated population that is helping to sustain us.” Heinz explained that much of the motivation for this legislation “caters to a small, scary fringe…I think it is horrifying to see a fringe group trying to dismantle the fabric of American society.” Though he entered office motivated to tackle health care issues, Heinz demonstrated a visible concern for Arizona’s immigration legislation and the need for comprehensive reform.
Despite this lengthy list of accomplishments, Heinz still has found time to travel to the Middle East and visit the country of his grandfather. In 2007 Heinz traveled to Beirut for a short visit, where he was able to see the beautiful city and learn a few phrases in Arabic. Heinz hopes to return in the future and see more of Lebanon.
Before Heinz can plan any more trips though, much of his time will be consumed with the upcoming Arizona primary in August and the general election in November. With his keen focus on the tough issues of health care, immigration, and education reform, it seems as though Heinz will continue to serve his constituents as well as remain an excellent role model to any aspiring Arab American politicians.
More information on Matt Heinz can be found on his State Representative website.
The Arizona primary election is August 24th, and his campaign information can be found at www.heinzforarizona.com.