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Dr. Syed Taj
Monday, 15 October 2012 19:17

Syed Taj: Democrat hopes voters will put a doctor in the House

Written by  Kathleen Gray | Detroit Free Press

He may be a Democrat in a largely Republican town, but don't tell that to Canton voters.

Dr. Syed Taj finished fourth out of six candidates in 2008 to win a seat on Canton's Board of Trustees -- the first Democrat elected to the board in recent memory and the only Democrat on the seven-member board.

"We love Dr. Taj," said Canton trustee Pat Williams. "We work well together. He's very thoughtful and reasonable."

But that collegiality doesn't translate into a vote for Taj, said Williams, who says he's an avid Republican.

The two had differences in philosophy. Taj supported accepting federal Neighborhood Stabilization Project dollars to rehabilitate fewer than a dozen homes in the township. Williams voted against the project, which he thinks was a failure nationally.

"It was a terrible use of taxpayer money," he said.

Taj is a native of India and graduated from the Patna Medical College in Bihar in 1969. He came to the U.S. in 1982 and became a citizen about 10 years later. Professionally, he rose from an internal medicine resident at Oakwood Hospital to the director of medicine at the Dearborn hospital. He retired from the hospital earlier this year, but still sees patients two days a week.

Pro-Obamacare

Taj is a traditional liberal, who would have preferred a single-payer health care system, favored by liberal Democrats, but he thinks President Barack Obama's signature Health Care Reform Act is a step in the right direction.

As a doctor, Taj has been sued three times in the past 10 years. All the cases were settled before going to trial. He has no complaints or disciplinary actions taken against him by the state Board of Medicine.

"Anywhere there is a doctor's name, there will be a lawsuit," Taj said. "That's why we all pay for insurance."

His colleague Dr. Michael Geheb, who was the division vice president at Oakwood when Taj was the director of medicine, said Taj is a self-made man who was respected enough by his peers to get handily elected twice as the director of medicine.

"He has enormously high integrity," Geheb said. "And he's an extraordinarily fair man who is very, very thoughtful."

He easily crossed the divide between the doctors who diagnose ailments and disease and surgeons, Geheb said, to quickly address issues of patient care and safety.

Being a doctor in three countries -- India, Britain and the U.S. -- gives him a helpful perspective, especially on the delivery of health care, Taj said.

"In India, you go to the doctor, you pay for it. And in Great Britain, there's universal health care," he said. "And here, I still feel there is room to improve. We should really cover every single human being."

Against the odds

The congressional campaign has been frustrating at times, Taj said. It's not the difference in heritage or language skills, he said: "This is a country of immigrants. I've never felt anything against me like that. I've been dealing with the public all my life."

Even though Rep. Thaddeus McCotter's name not appearing on the ballot gives him more of a chance, state and national Democrats aren't putting significant resources behind his campaign. National Democrats helped with an internal poll in September that showed Taj within striking distance, and state Democrats are helping Taj with district mailings.

Taj hopes to defy expectations. He's begun airing commercials, mostly on cable television, and he's contacted thousands of residents in the district. He's also counting on a big turnout among Asian Americans. In Troy, voters of Asian heritage comprise 19% of the population.

He's also hoping some Republicans split their tickets when they compare him to Bentivolio.

"People don't take into account that Republicans aren't all blind followers of their party," Taj said.

Link to original article on Detroit Free Press

Read 3082 times Last modified on Friday, 19 October 2012 02:19
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