“I’m used to walking into a room and not doing all the talking.”–Dr. Nadia Hashimi


Dr. Nadia Hashimi, bestselling novelist and recent democratic candidate for Maryland’s 6th congressional district, talks with Norman Sandridge (classics professor at Howard University, fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies) about how physicians and storytellers can make good political leaders. They discuss the lessons she learned on the campaign trail and wrestle with how to tell the story of America going forward.


  • How did Nadia make the decision to run for the US House of Representatives (MD-6) ? (00:00:50)
  • Did Nadia arrive at her decision on her own? How did her community of friends and family factor into the decision? (00:02:50 )
  • Did Nadia ever question or doubt the support of others? What did she believe her friends and family saw in her? (00:04:09)
  • What is the difference between framing diversity in representation as “identity politics” versus “interdisciplinarity”? (00:05:37)
  • How transferable are leadership skills in medicine to statecraft? What is it about being a doctor that could make someone a good congresswoman? (00:06:56)
  • Does Nadia find that the skill-sets that a physician would bring to lawmaking are currently lacking in Congress, especially when it comes to solving healthcare problems? (00:08:45)
  • Does Nadia have any philosophers or intellectuals that influence her thinking on leadership? (00:17:40)
  • How can examples from literature or other cultures help us moderate our own assumptions about what we materially “need” to be happy? (00:21:48 )
  • How did Nadia stay composed during her campaign for House of Representatives? (00:23:45)
  • What were the biggest leadership lessons Nadia learned on the campaign trail? (00:26:25)
  • How does a leader overcome people’s misapprehensions, especially when meeting someone for the first time and having only a minute or thirty seconds to communicate your message? (00:29:18)
  • What mechanisms might there be for allowing many people to run for office such that voters have a realistic chance of getting to know each candidate, their motives, and their ideas? (00:32:36)
  • What more would Nadia have wanted voters to know about her on the campaign trail? (00:36:47)
  • Who made up Nadia’s campaign team? What did they contribute? (00:38:18)
  • How easy/difficult did Nadia find it to win over the people in her inner circle and get them to invest themselves in the campaign? (00:39:09)
  • Does Nadia consider herself the “leader” of a campaign/movement? (00:39:59)
  • What did Nadia do as a leader to balance, or reconcile, the divergent interests of her constituency? (00:41:35)
  • What novel solutions did Nadia feel like she came up with to the problems facing her constituency? (00:42:46)
  • How would Nadia “diagnose” the strengths and weaknesses of the American character? (00:43:35)
  • How would Nadia characterize someone who is unwilling to be honest about his/her past actions and motivations? (00:45:54)
  • What kind of character development would Nadia like to see the “American character” undergo? (00:46:34)
  • What mechanisms, or institutions, would Nadia recommend for Americans to learn more about their history? (00:48:15)
  • How does Nadia see her future in politics? (00:53:44)
  • What kind of America would Nadia like to see in 50 years? (00:56:15)
  • The final question from Nadia: how do you become a leader for everyone–and not just represent the select few are of the same mindset? (00:58:10)

Key Insights

Making the decision to run for office is affected by a leader’s belief in her ability to address urgent problems, the support and encouragement she receives from friends and family, and the examples set by others.

Having people with a plurality of backgrounds in congress is akin to the interdisciplinarity of medicine, where people with different approaches and skill-sets come together to solve a common problem.

Practicing medicine is akin legislation in that they both need objectivity, evidence, and a range of solutions to a problem.

Conversations about leadership in medicine must be much more nuanced than the “party line.”

“You have to be really invested in the way policy, the way context, affects an individual’s life. And that happens as a physician. So when I walk into a room to greet a family, to learn what it is that ails their child, I have to be taking a look not only at the singular symptoms that they might be reporting, but also at the context, you know, what kind of poverty situation are they living in, what kind of access to healthcare do they have, what kinds of barriers are in their life. And the same thing happens when I’m writing a story. I can’t just write about a character that’s floating through space. You have to write about a character that is touched by policy, by wars, by so many different factors that are really political in nature. And, so, as an aspiring representative or someone who’s taking a look at how the political landscape is affecting my community, it was the same: what are our policies? How are they impacting people on a very everyday level?”–Nadia Hashimi    

“Nothing beats getting out there and talking to people directly.”–Nadia Hashimi

Leaders must seeks a middle ground between not hiding and not exploiting their identity.

Voters need to put in more time to select their leaders.

One of America’s great struggles is how to reconcile what we believe ourselves to be and what our actual history is.

“The measure of a society is how it treats its children, or its most vulnerable.”–Nadia Hashimi

Works Referenced

Here is a link to Nadia’s own books: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00INYQ4RS?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

Plutarch’s Life of Pericles 8.1 (translated by Bernadotte Perrin) “[I]n my opinion Alexander’s love of the art of healing was inculcated in him by Aristotle preeminently. For he was not only fond of the theory of medicine, but actually came to the aid of his friends when they were sick, and prescribed for them certain treatments and regimens, as one can gather from his letters.”


Further Reading

To learn more about Nadia’s campaign: https://nadiahashimi.com/


The woman that Nadia references as a source of inspiration to her own campaign is member of the parliament in Afghanistan, Dr. Nilofar Nilufar Ibrahimi: 



Wikipedia has a page dedicated to all the physicians currently in congress: