Penn Nursing Ph.D. student Tarik Khan wins Democratic primary in Pa.’s 194th District

Penn Nursing Ph.D. Student Tarik Khan (photo by Tarik Khan).

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

Khan won 59% of the vote over six-time incumbent DeLissio in the Democratic primary in the 194th legislative district. The 194th Legislative District is located in Northwest Philadelphia and includes portions of Montgomery County and Philadelphia County.

Over the course of his main campaign, Khan knocked on over 10,000 doors and raised $284,000 in funding, ten times more money than DeLissio. Khan is now a candidate in the general election and faces no Republican opposition to his seat as a representative.

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 home nurse at Abbottsford-Falls Health Center in Philadelphia. Khan is the immediate past president of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association and while pursuing his Ph.D. at Penn, he worked on health policy with AARP and the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.

Khan gained national attention for his “Angel Dose” program, in which he has distributed over 850 doses of near-expired COVID-19 shots to patients across Philadelphia. Khan is also a political activist working with the American Nurses Association to campaign for passage of the Affordable Care Act. Khan was also a political advocate in Philadelphia, campaigning for a universal preschool in the city and protesting the Nicetown Gas Plant, a fossil fuel facility that SEPTA had built in Nicetown, Philadelphia.

Originally hoping to break into the entertainment industry, Khan received his bachelor’s degree in English and Theater from Davidson College. But after a short career with The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which he found unfulfilled, Khan decided to become a nurse like his mother.

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

Khan “fell in love” with the 194th Ward 20 years ago while attending nursing school at Roxborough Memorial Hospital. He decided to run for the 194th Legislative District after seeing all the hardship caused by COVID-19.

“We have had people in care homes who had no way of accessing PPE [personal protective equipment]. Pennsylvania has the second highest mortality rate in the US, in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, behind only New York,” Khan told the DP. “We need a lawyer, we need a caregiver legislature.”

Khan’s time at Penn Nursing has influenced the way he conducts politics. He told the DP that Penn Nursing’s philosophy is to “make the deepest impact on the community and create lasting change”. Khan said Penn Nursing knew they were getting an activist when they accepted him and he feels the school has “always been super supportive of that”.

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

“Actually, my goal is to work four hours a week at the health center, no matter what’s going on in Harrisburg [Pennsylvania’s capital]’ Khan said. “It could be even more that I [can stay] connected to the community.”

During the campaign, Khan remained committed to his academics at Penn. He works on his dissertation every day, no matter what else he has in mind.

“Even on election night, it took me 30 minutes to write my dissertation,” Khan told the DP. “I feel like doing this Ph.D. will really inform me as a legislator.”

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