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Who is Nche Zama, the surgeon running for Pa. governor?

Nche Zama's life story is central to his campaign for governor, in which he has diagnosed Pennsylvania’s economy and health care system as “sick” and in need of a doctor.

Nche Zama
Nche ZamaRead moreCourtesy Nche Zama campaign

Nche Zama, a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon who lives in the Poconos, came to the United States from Cameroon when he was a teenager.

His life story is central to his Republican campaign for Pennsylvania governor, in which he has diagnosed Pennsylvania’s economy and health care system as “sick” and in need of a doctor.

Zama, 65, is competing in a crowded GOP field in the May 17 primary, which will decide the party’s nominee to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

» READ MORE: Get to know the 2022 candidates for Pa. Senate and governor

What is Nche Zama’s background?

Zama, who lives in Wind Gap, decided to pursue a career in medicine after watching his mother die while giving birth to a sibling, according to his campaign website. He arrived in America alone at age 14 with $20 in his pocket to pursue his education, eventually earning a medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

He has never run for office before.

“I realized that Pennsylvania is dying,” he said in an interview with the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. “And if Pennsylvania’s dying, it is very much in need of a cardiac surgeon for heart surgery.”

What are Nche Zama’s top policy priorities?

Zama supports “school choice” policies, including charter schools and tax credit scholarships. He believes school funding should be tied to performance.

He wants to repeal the 2019 state law that instituted no-excuse mail balloting in Pennsylvania, and he supports voter ID requirements.

He opposes vaccine mandates. The COVID-19 vaccine is effective, he acknowledges, but the government’s handling of the pandemic has sowed confusion and distrust.

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about voting in Pa.’s May 2022 primary election

Zama believes the climate is warming and wants Pennsylvania to be a leader in clean energy research. But he has also said that renewable energy sources aren’t “ready for prime time,” and doesn’t want to abandon the state’s fossil fuel economy, according to the Pocono Record.

“Pennsylvania should have a trillion-dollar economy that is globally competitive and strongly supported by world-class schools and a top-notch health care system,” he said. “As an ardent supporter of educational, technological, business and health care excellence, I am running for governor to lead the charge and address these and other ills confronting this great commonwealth.”

Who is backing Nche Zama?

As a political newcomer, Zama does not have many endorsements from elected officials.

At his campaign launch event, he was joined by health care professionals, and he has also received praise on the campaign trail from patients he treated.

What else should I know?

Zama has loaned his campaign $140,000 from his personal wealth, according to his most recent campaign finance report.

He collected about $35,000 in donations in the first three months of 2022, with many contributions coming from others in the health care industry.