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A doctor in the House

Photo of Yadira Caraveo wearing doctors scrubs with stethoscope

Why I am a physician-legislator

In my professional life, I have taken an oath twice. The first time, I swore to do no harm and to use my medical training to help my patients as a pediatrician. More recently, I swore to serve the people of Colorado as the State Representative for House District 31. Very few legislators ever find themselves in this position; in fact, I am the only medical doctor in the Colorado General Assembly. With this distinction comes an immense responsibility. As a citizen legislator, I am either treating children in my Thornton clinic or determining healthcare policy in Denver. I have to honor these oaths year-round, regardless of the role that I am serving at that moment.

My desire to serve Adams County as a physician and as a legislator stems from my concern for the wellbeing of children, their families, and the community at large. I grew up wanting to become a doctor, and along my journey, I have been blessed with great opportunities. My parents moved from Mexico to Adams County to provide a better life for me and my siblings, and I benefited from a great public education and wonderful experiences at my local library. These schools were safe environments and my teachers prepared me to excel at Regis University and to earn my medical degree from the University of Colorado. While I hail from a historically marginalized community and did not grow up with the privileges that many of my peers at the Capitol did, I had the support I needed to fulfill my dream.

In residency and shortly afterwards, I realized how social and economic injustices prevent many children and their families from thriving. To this day, I continue to see the opportunities I enjoyed disappear for the children I treat. My patients experience poverty, and their families face turmoil as their parents struggle to provide for them in a state that is becoming unaffordable. Throughout my career, I realized that following the first oath I swore, and improving the lives of my patients, required engaging with my community beyond the confines of my clinic.

I felt that I did not have an adequate seat at the table, and so I ran for office in 2018. While I had engaged with several organizations and boards prior to my campaign, I did not feel like I had a direct voice over the changes that needed to occur. When I had the chance to run for State House, I saw an opportunity to bring the voice of a pediatrician to a building where healthcare conversations are dominated by lobbyists. I could bring my perspective as a Latina woman, a proud daughter of immigrants, a former union representative, and an environmental advocate to a government where only a small portion of the population had power. I ran unapologetically as a progressive candidate, advocating for treating healthcare as a right, for supporting public education, for strengthening workers’ rights, and for protecting our community from climate change. These values arose from my experiences growing up in Adams County and from seeing the problems my patients face everyday.

I am fortunate to have passed legislation during my first term that directly addresses the challenges that my patients and our community continues to experience. As the vice chair of the House Health and Insurance Committee, I passed legislation to invest in primary care and to reform prior authorizations so that people receive the care that they need. I also sponsored contentious bills to protect our environment and promote comprehensive human sexuality education, challenging entrenched interests and tackling systemic injustices that hold our community back. One of my favorite accomplishments was securing $6 million in census outreach funding so that every Coloradan counts in the upcoming census. These were not easy fights, yet my obligation to serve the oaths I swore empowers me to boldly lead.

My life as a physician-legislator consists of many time crunches, difficult conversations, and contentious decisions. When I feel tired or exasperated, I reflect upon the community I serve and the challenges we must overcome. I think about how I have sworn to serve my community as a doctor and as a legislator, and how we have much more legislation to pass so that working families can thrive across Colorado. This passion continues to drive me, and gives me the conviction I need to serve as the doctor in the House. ■

Yadira Caraveo is a doctor, Colorado state representative, and an Anythink board of trustee.

Run for office

Did you know that a 2014 report by William and Mary University found that 40 percent of all state legislatice races included uncontested candidates? If you want to run for office, here are some suggestions for getting started. 

1.    Ask questions and get advice

Talk to people in the community about what they want to see in their local government. National organizations like Veterans Campaign and The Campaign Workshop can provide a number of introductory resources to get you started.

2.    Pick which office you want to run for. 

Suggestions include:

  • School district
  • City Council
  • Mayor
  • County seats like assessor, clerk or treasurer
  • House of Representatives
  • State seats like treasurer or Regional
  • Transportation District director

3.    Get your name on the ballot

Each office will have different requirements. Visit the Colorado Secretary of State’s website at sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/Candidates/RunForOffice.html for details.

4.    Fundraise to support your campaign.

Browse a number of step-by-step guides to fundraising in books at your local Anythink.

5.    Create a campaign based on your values and beliefs.  

This may include door-knocking, social media marketing, and talking with constituents at local events and meetings.

6.    Win!

Send your questions or feedback to ithink@anythinklibraries.org or comment below.