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Physician Peter Hsu Prescribes Affordable Housing, Education Equity in Cambridge Council Run

Cambridge City Council candidate Peter Hsu is campaigning on a platform of affordable housing and educational equity.
Cambridge City Council candidate Peter Hsu is campaigning on a platform of affordable housing and educational equity. By Julian J. Giordano
By Jina H. Choe, Crimson Staff Writer

Peter Hsu is running for Cambridge City Council to keep the city’s organs intact.

“If I can take care of a person with various organ systems,” said Hsu, a physician, “I wouldn’t have a whole lot of difficulty managing a city.”

“Meaning there are also issues that need to be weighed and balanced in terms of priorities, just like different organ systems in the body,” he added. “At the end of the day, we take care of the person. In this case, a city with various issues.”

Hsu grew up in Southern California after immigrating from Taiwan with his mother and younger brother when he was 12. Hsu moved to Ohio for a combined Internal Medicine-Pediatrics residency program after obtaining a master’s degree in biology.

Afterwards, he completed a fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, researching health policy on the Affordable Care Act’s effects on insurance coverage.

In 2020, Hsu moved to Cambridge after getting a job at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is currently a medical instructor at Harvard Medical School and an attending physician at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center — making him one of four Harvard affiliates in the race.

In an interview, Hsu said he started to question “whether academic medicine was the thing I wanted to do forever.” He said he started talking to people when someone suggested he go into politics.

“At first I was like, ‘Nah man, I didn’t go to med school to go into politics,’” he said. “Then I heard more and more from other people, and I started thinking about it.”

During the middle of the year, Hsu decided, “Let’s give it a try.”

“If I’m really into policy, this is the way to make it happen,” he added.

Hsu said he spoke to many people, one being Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, who was very “supportive and encouraging.”

“Folks like us — first-generation immigrants, no background — I think we got to start somewhere, and local elections are probably the best place for us to start,” he said.

Hsu’s top priorities include housing affordability, where he said the “bottom line” is to “build more.” He also said he “personally” vows to end exclusionary zoning.

“I don’t think that is fair, and I think that’s not appropriate for this day and age in terms of classism, racism,” he said.

Hsu’s housing platform also includes increasing tenant protections, allocating more of the budget for housing, and collaborating with institutions such as Harvard and MIT, which Hsu said Cambridge has a “mutually beneficial relationship” with.

“People come to Cambridge to see these two universities, all over the world, meaning tours and all these kinds of stuff,” he said. “They do bring a lot of money into Cambridge, and obviously they provide a unique culture for folks.”

“We should continue to communicate and give to each other so that we thrive together, not just survive,” he added.

On his website, Hsu stresses the importance of education equity, crediting education in his own life as the “path for me to achieve the American dream” as a first-generation immigrant.

“If it wasn’t education, I wouldn’t be a doctor today. I wouldn’t be able to make it today,” he said in the interview.

In addition, Hsu strongly advocates for safe bike lanes as someone who bikes “at least five miles every day.” He signed the Cambridge Bicycle Safety pledge — committing to supporting the Cycling Safety Ordinance and implementing protected bike lanes — after initially hesitating.

“That decision was a little tough,” he said, citing initial concerns about some of the pledge’s language.

“There are flexibilities around this pledge, not something that certain folks think once you pledge, ‘This is dead, this is political suicide.’” Hsu said. “I don’t think so. I think there are flexibilities, and I think that’s a good thing.”

For Hsu, the hope to “give back” and “help people on a larger scale” is what motivated him to enter politics.

“I wanted to make human lives better through medicine and knowledge and science and research. It wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like I wanted to win the Nobel Prize,” he said. “I just wanted to help families, and this is what this is. This is why I’m coming into politics.”

—Staff writer Jina H. Choe can be reached at jina.choe@thecrimson.com.

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