State Beat: Physician Anesthesiologist Runs for State Senate

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February 1, 2014 Volume 78, Number 2
State Beat: Physician Anesthesiologist Runs for State Senate Jane C.K. Fitch, M.D.
Jason Hansen, M.S., J.D.



“Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.” 

– President Dwight D. Eisenhower


Several ASA physician anesthesiologists are taking President Eisenhower’s words to heart by running for elected office and making political service their true part-time job. Serving as an elected official is a difficult task but provides a unique opportunity to represent patients and advocate for safe health care measures.


Recently, long-time ASA member and past-president of the Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists, Ervin Yen, M.D., announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination to represent Oklahoma’s District 40 in the Oklahoma State Senate. District 40 covers Oklahoma City and is currently represented by Sen. Cliff Branan (R), who is term-limited from seeking reelection.


Dr. Yen was born in Taipei, Taiwan. His parents were originally from mainland China and were worried about the Communist threat to Taiwan. For the sake of their family, Dr. Yen’s parents chose to immigrate to the United States when he was four years old. The Yen family selected Oklahoma City as their home, and Dr. Yen has lived there ever since – now with his wife of 27 years and five children.


After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Yen attended the College of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma. He completed his residency in anesthesiology in Oklahoma City, where he has practiced medicine for almost 30 years. His primary hospital of practice for the last 20 years is Integris Baptist Medical Center, where he has focused on cardiac anesthesiology, taking care of patients for vascular surgery, chest surgery and heart surgery, including heart transplants, lung transplants and left ventricular assist devices (LVADs).


Although the Oklahoma legislature currently has two physicians in the state house, there are no physicians in the Oklahoma State Senate. Dr. Ervin Yen is committed to bringing a physician’s voice to the health care discussion in the Oklahoma Senate. Dr. Yen says that he “want[s] to be the go-to guy in the Senate when health care issues appear” and is “more concerned with health care reform as a health care consumer than as a health care provider.” In his press release announcing his candidacy, Dr. Yen said that “When I’m elected, I will do everything in my power to enact meaningful health policies that benefit Oklahomans.”


Two other physician anesthesiologists are currently serving as state legislators in Tennessee and Texas. ASA Immediate Past President John Zerwas, M.D., is currently serving his fourth term as state representative for the 28th District of Texas. Former president of the Tennessee Society of Anesthesiologists, Steve Dickerson, M.D., was elected to the Tennessee Senate last year and serves Tennessee’s 20th District.


More physician anesthesiologists involved in the political process means exponentially more opportunities to advocate for patient safety and improved health care practices. For more information on how to become politically involved in your state, please contact Jason Hansen at j.hansen@asahq.org or Erin Berry Philp at e.philp@asahq.org. For more information on Dr. Yen’s campaign, please visit his campaign website at yen4senate.com.



Jane C.K. Fitch, M.D. is John L. Plewes Professor and Chair with Tenure, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City. She is ASA President.


Jason Hansen, M.S., J.D. is ASA Director of State Affairs.