Running For Office While Running her Practice

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Running a solo practice is a busy job, but Lisa Shin, OD, wants to add another. She’s running for a seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives and says that her experience as an optometrist is a valuable asset. “My platform is focused on education and public health,” she says. Her practice is Los Alamos Family Eye Care in Los Alamos.

“Education is the foundation for success, the key to upward mobility. Healthier communities are stronger communities. I have direct experience with patient care; I have been taking care of people for the past 20 years,” she says. “Doctors are being left out of the conversation about health care. As a small business owner and job creator, I know what it takes to get our economy moving in the right direction. This is the message that I am running on.”

Dr. Shin says that she became more politically involved in the 2016 election. She was chosen as a New Mexico delegate and as a speaker for the Republican National Convention in July of that year. “That was an incredible opportunity I never expected. I told my story of pursuing the American dream as the daughter of Korean immigrants,” she says. “I was a strong, minority voice for our president. And that was uncommon.”

Communication skills in place

This is her first run for elected office. The incumbent for District 43 is Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard, and she is running for a different position, land commissioner. While Dr. Shin is the only Republican candidate, there is a contested Democratic Party primary between two members of the Los Alamos County Council. The general election is November 6.

Health care is an important issue in New Mexico, as it is nationwide. In 2013 under the Affordable Care Act, New Mexico expanded Medicaid. Dr. Shin says the expansion has strained the state’s budget. “We need to find ways to strengthen the program so that it is available for those who need it the most,” she says.

That could include work requirements for able-bodied beneficiaries, as well as cost-sharing. “We have to address the waste, fraud and abuse in the program. Our attorney general’s office recovered $6.5 million in Medicaid fraud during the 2016 federal budget year. I am particularly disappointed that legislation to expand the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit failed to pass this year.”

One challenge for Dr. Shin is that Democrats hold a 43 percent to 31 percent registration edge in her district. “Although solid Republican just six years ago, my district currently leans more toward Democrats,” she says. “During my candidate training, I learned that personal contact with the voters is an essential part of the campaign. But this is what I do every day. As an optometrist, I have built the personal relationships, earned trust and gained respect as well as name recognition.”

Overlap of constituents and patients


District 43 has about 28,000 residents, and its economic driver is the Los Alamos National Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy. The laboratory was created during World War II to work on the design of nuclear weapons. It now employs nearly 12,000 people.

Dr. Shin campaigns on weekends and in the evenings during the week. She has a Facebook page for her campaign. She has a large campaign sign outside her office and wears a campaign button to work. “I avoid initiating political conversations during the eye exam, but I answer questions when asked. As I go canvassing, many of the doors I knock on are those of my patients. My practice helps my campaign, and my campaign helps my practice.”

The legislature’s annual sessions begin every January in the state capitol, Santa Fe. It’s a 33-mile drive from Los Alamos to the capitol. The job has no salary, but members do get a per diem and mileage.

“I would have to take time off and change my schedule,” she says. “Being in private practice gives me the flexibility to do that.” If elected, she would be the only optometrist in the state’s legislature. “This is a golden opportunity for our profession to have direct representation and a voice in government.”