Following the 2016 presidential election, some students and faculty have become more involved in political activism through marches and protests. But one Penn graduate and faculty member is taking a different route — she’s running for public office.
Assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine and 1999 College graduate Jennifer Chuang recently decided to run for a seat on New Jersey State Assembly for District 7.
A daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Chuang grew up in Moorestown, N.J., where she also currently lives with her family. Chuang majored in anthropology as an undergraduate at Penn and attended Temple University’s School of Medicine.
After the 2016 presidential election, Chuang wanted to find ways to engage with her community.
“I absolutely did not think that it would involve running for office,” she said.
Nonetheless, Chuang said she was compelled to seek elected office in the New Jersey State Assembly after witnessing national and local government changes she found worrisome. She said the that casts doubt on the safety or importance of vaccinations, especially, upset her as a pediatrician.
Chuang also expressed her support for reproductive rights and abortion access in New Jersey.
“I’m afraid that as we cut away at access and those rights, that women will be seeking very unsafe alternatives,” she said. Chuang served as a national coordinator for Medical Students for Choice while attending medical school, according to her letter of intent.
Chuang cites her own practice in adolescent medicine as a major factor in her platform’s emphasis on supporting youth, especially underserved teens and LGBTQ youth.
“I’m so proud of the kids that I take care of, and I can’t overemphasize the amount of potential that I think that these young people have,” she said.
Chuang noted the scarcity of physicians, and especially pediatricians, in elected office.
“Pediatricians are some of the strongest advocates for their patients,” she said. “So I do think that it is very important for pediatricians to have a voice to protect our kids.”
The Democratic primary for the New Jersey State Assembly will be held on June 6. Chuang will formally announce her platform on April 4 at 6 p.m. at the Moorestown Community House.
During her time as a Penn undergraduate, Chuang participated in groups that influenced her current platform, including a student organization called Facilitating Learning About Sexual Health.
“That was the beginning of me getting up and talking about sexual health,” she said. “It was for the good of the community.”
She also wrote for a women’s newsletter, Generation XX, and participated in Take Back the Night, a march aiming to end sexual assault and violence.
Chuang’s own young children also inspired her to run for office.
“I really feel like our country is potentially going in a direction that fifteen or twenty years from now, they’re going to look back and ask me, what did you do at that time?” she said. “Did you passively watch everything just go by? And I wanted to be able to face my kids and say no, I stood up and spoke out when I thought that there was inequity in the world.”