Dr. Manny Sethi has taken on numerous jobs during his 41 years. He’s worked as an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, founded a nonprofit organization, authored a book and helped shape health policy.
Now, he hopes to add U.S. Senator to his resume.
The 41-year-old physician from Hillsboro brought his campaign to the Crossville Depot Oct. 2 to share why he wants to serve the state in the U.S. Senate and some of the issues he hopes to address.
Sethi was born in Cleveland, OH, the son of two physicians who immigrated to the U.S. from India.
“They realized India was not a place where we would grow and thrive,” Sethi said.
His parents waited seven years to move to the United States. When they left, they said goodbye to their family — some of whom they would never see again.
When he was four, the family moved to Coffee County, TN. His father was a primary care physician while his mother specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. They were the first doctors in the rural community that had two ambulances. His father was often called to assist patients with medical emergencies.
Sethi said his father told him, “It doesn’t matter what’s in your bank account. What matters is the difference you make.”
Sethi graded from the Webb School and attended Brown University for his undergraduate studies, majoring in neuroscience. He served as a Fulbright Scholar working with children with muscular dystrophy in Tunisia before attending Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, and completing a general surgery internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. He completed his residency in the Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Surgery program and returned to Tennessee in 2010, completing a fellowship in orthopaedic trauma at Vanderbilt.
His father died when he was in his early 20s, which led Sethi to find his faith.
“I realized I was the product of this American Dream in Tennessee,” he said. “You realize life is like a candle. The time you have can be gone like that. You’ve got to hug your loved ones and tell them you love them. And in the time that you do have, try to make the biggest difference you can make.”
Sethi and his wife, Maya, started a grassroots health care organization in 2011, traveling across the state offering health screenings to people regardless of their health insurance status. The nonprofit organization promotes health education. Tennessee often ranks near the bottom in health concerns like obesity and diabetes.
“We’ve been across almost all 95 counties taking care of patients,” Sethi said of his grassroots health organization. “And we haven’t taken one cent from federal or state governments.”
Since it launched in 2011, Healthy Tennessee has hosted summits and roundtable discussions on various health issues in the state, including the opioid abuse crisis. He was asked to testify in the U.S. Senate on health care and invited to a listening session with President Donald Trump in 2017.
Sethi has authored medical texts and articles for peer-reviewed medical journals. He also co-authored “An Introduction to Health Policy” with former Sen. Bill Frist.
He wrote “The American Dream in Tennessee: Stories of Faith, Struggle and Survival” in 2015 which detailed his family’s immigration to America and their lives in rural Tennessee.
Sethi is seeking the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Lamar Alexander, who will retire at the end of his term in 2020.
“I feel this U.S. Senate seat is a generational opportunity to make a change,” Sethi said. “For me, it’s a chance for me to make a bigger difference.”
He said the country faces numerous challenges, including health care, the opioid crisis
“I think Obamacare is the clearest evidence you could ever see that putting the government between you and your doctor is wrong and it’s going to end in disaster,” he said.
He supports a model that provides individual marketplaces for the insured to increase competition, a focus on preventative care and price transparency.
He added the Veterans Administration had let veterans down with their poor level of care. Until that is fixed, he wanted to provide veterans access to other providers, but he also wanted the VA to improve their service which, he said, should be a leader in care.
On the issue of opioid abuse, Sethi wants to see communities have the resources to implement a plan crafted to their individual needs.
“We need to trust our mayors, our sheriffs and give them resources to figure this out,” he said.
He said there needed to be more attention to adverse childhood events, substance abuse treatment facilities and faith-based programs to assist individuals after treatment.
He also said companies that profited from the crisis needed to pay into a fund to help support those solutions.
“These drugs fundamentally change the way you think and operate. We need mental health facilities. We need medication treatment facilities,” Sethi said.
As the child of immigrants, he said his mother gets “fired up” about illegal immigration and said the country needed to enforce its immigration laws and its borders.
“We have to stop it. It is an illegal immigrant invasion when you have 1 million people being arrested at our southern border,” he said.
Sethi said 40 years ago a rural community much like Cumberland County opened the door to opportunity to his family.
“Where else in the world can a story like this happen?” he said.
“Now, 40 years later, I’m asking you to send this conservative outsider to Washington. Let me fight for you. Believe me. Help me. And I promise, I won’t let you down.”
Sethi will face other Republican hopefuls in the Aug. 6 primary election, with the general election set Nov. 3.