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Penn Nursing Ph.D. student Tarik Khan (Photo from Tarik Khan).

Tarik Khan, a Penn Nursing Ph.D. student, defeated the incumbent state Rep. Pam DeLissio in the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania's 194th legislative district. 

Khan captured 59% of the vote against six-time incumbent DeLissio in the 194th legislative district’s Democratic primary election. Located in Northwest Philadelphia, the 194th legislative district includes Roxborough, Manayunk, and parts of East Falls and Chestnut Hill. 

Throughout the course of his primary campaign, Khan knocked on over 10,000 doors and raised $287,000 in funding, 10 times more money than DeLissio. Khan is now running in the general election and faces no Republican opposition for his state representative seat. 

Khan studied nursing at Roxborough Memorial Hospital School of Nursing and later received his master's degree in nursing from La Salle University. He currently works as a family nurse practitioner at Abbottsford-Falls Health Center in Philadelphia. Khan is the immediate past president of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, and while getting his Ph.D. at Penn, he has worked with the AARP and the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics on health care policy. 

Khan gained national attention for his "angel doses" program, where he has delivered over 850 doses of almost-expired COVID-19 shots to patients throughout Philadelphia. Khan is also a political activist, working with the American Nurses Association to fight for the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Khan has also been a political advocate in Philadelphia, fighting for universal pre-kindergarten in the city and protesting the Nicetown Gas Plant, a fossil fuel plant that SEPTA built in Nicetown, Philadelphia.  

Initially hoping to enter the entertainment industry, Khan received his undergraduate degree in English and Theater from Davidson College. However, after a brief career with The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which he found unfulfilling, Khan decided to become a nurse like his mother. 

“I decided to follow my mom's footsteps and become a nurse because I knew that nurses were cool, and I just knew that nurses got things done,” Khan said to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “[Nurses] didn’t let anything stand in the way between what their patients needed, and their advocacy.”  

Khan “fell in love” with the 194th district 20 years ago, as he attended nursing school at Roxborough Memorial Hospital. He decided to run for the 194th legislative district after seeing all of the distress brought on by COVID-19. 

”We had people in nursing homes that had no way to get access to PPE [personal protective equipment]. Pennsylvania had the second highest death rate in nursing homes and long term care facilities behind only New York,” Khan explained to the DP. “We need an advocate, we need a nurse legislator.”

Khan’s time at Penn Nursing has informed the way he practices politics. He told the DP that Penn Nursing’s philosophy is “making the deepest impact on the community, making lasting change.” Khan said that Penn Nursing knew they were getting an activist when they admitted him, and he feels that the school has “always been super supportive of it.” 

Khan is inspired to follow in the footsteps of one of his colleagues at LDI, David Shulkin, former secretary of Veterans Affairs, who continued serving as a clinician part-time while in his government role.

“I actually have planned to work four hours at the health center a week, no matter what’s going on in Harrisburg [Pennsylvania’s capital],” Khan said. “It might even be more so that I [can stay] connected with the community."

Even while campaigning, Khan has remained committed to his academics at Penn. He works on his dissertation every day, no matter what else he has going on. 

“Even on election night, I spent 30 minutes on my dissertation,” Khan told the DP. “I feel like having this Ph.D. is really going to inform me as a legislator.”