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School of Public Health Alum Seeks to Bring Scientific Expertise to Congress

By Simone C. Chu and Luke W. Vrotsos, Crimson Staff Writers

UPDATED: March 12, 2018 at 11:15 a.m.

Eric L. Ding, an alumni of the School of Public Health, has announced his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives to represent Pennsylvania’s 10th congressional district.

Ding, who holds a doctorate in the fields of nutrition and epidemiology from the School of Public Health, is running as a Democrat to represent a district that includes central Pennsylvania, including the capital city of Harrisburg.

Ding said he will advocate for affordable health care and bring evidence-based policy back to Washington.

When he was in high school, Ding was diagnosed with a tumor the size of a tennis ball in his chest. Though doctors predicted the tumor would be fatal, Ding survived. Ding said the experience left him with a desire to give back to the world, as well as a passion for public health.

“Affordable healthcare for all is not only the right thing to do—as a public [health] scientist, I know it is cheaper and saves more lives,” Ding wrote in an email. “Workers should not have to worry about how they are going to afford healthcare if they are laid-off, seniors should not choose between food on the table and seeing the doctor, and a family should not go bankrupt because their child has cancer.”

Vasanti Malik, a nutrition research scientist at the School of Public Health who was in the same doctoral program as Ding, wrote in an email that Ding attracted attention during his time as a graduate student at Harvard for his dedication to public health research.

“As a doctoral student, he was always extremely passionate about all things public health,” Malik wrote. “He used to pull many all-nighters, not just working on class assignments, but also personal projects like uncovering controversies about the safety of Vioxx (a drug used for pain management).”

Malik added that he did all this “while at the same time helping friends with assignments and serving as a TA for various classes.”

Ding said he loved conducting public health research, but he also wanted to apply his knowledge of science to “offer unique solutions” and insights that other policymakers might not be able to.

“Life is about what you do for the world, not the number of letters behind your name,” he said.

Ding said this inspired him to create Campaign for Cancer Prevention, a web platform that raised $400,000 for cancer research and was profiled in the New York Times. He also created the online database Toxin Alert to aggregate water-testing data in response to the water crisis in Flint, Mich.

“Science from within academia can only do so much to influence policy,” Ding said. “We have to cross over if we want to see the change we believe in. And for that, you need a scientist to run for office and become a lawmaker.”

Ding faces four other candidates in the Democratic primary to date, the York Daily Herald reported. Pennsylvania’s new electoral map supplanted Republican-drawn districts that the state’s supreme court struck down in January because they “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the state constitution.

If elected, Ding would join several other Harvard alumni in the halls of Congress. More than 40 members of the 115th Congress have degrees from one of Harvard’s schools, including top-ranking Senate Democrat Charles “Chuck” E. Schumer ’71.

The primary election will take place on May 15, and the general election on Nov. 6.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: March 12, 2018

A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that Eric L. Ding is running to represent a district that includes central and northwestern regions of Pennsylvania. In fact, Ding is running to represent a district that includes central Pennsylvania, including the capital city of Harrisburg.

—Staff writer Simone C. Chu can be reached at simone.chu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @simonechu_.

—Staff writer Luke W. Vrotsos can be reached at luke.vrotsos@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at luke_vrotsos.

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