Eat & Run

How Dr. Hiral Tipirneni Would Bring Her Medical Background To Congress

Her driving goal is to get “quality, affordable healthcare for every American."

Dr. Hiral Tipirneni
Photos Courtesy of Hiral Tipirneni, Erhan Inga/EyeEm, Dinodia Photo/Getty

Dr. Hiral Tipirneni can’t bear the thought of coffee. The emergency medicine physician maxed out her tolerance for the world’s most popular pick-me-up in medical school at Northeast Ohio Medical University and during residency at the University of Michigan. “Those were very erratic years,” she tells Bustle. “Most of the time we would eat on the run.” After losing both her mother and nephew to cancer, she switched gears in 2005, swapping ER scrubs for lab coats. Now, she starts her days with a cup of chai before heading into work as a cancer researcher.

Next week, Tipirneni is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Arizona’s 6th Congressional district, where she’s hoping to unseat the Republican incumbent, Rep. David Schweikert. It’s a tight race, and her first foray with politics. An Oct. 29 poll from Public Policy Polling has her up by four points, which is well within the margin of error. Her experience as a doctor, caffeinated or not, is the guiding force behind her campaign. “Goal number one is to absolutely get to that place of quality, affordable healthcare for every American,” says Tipirneni, whose family immigrated to the United States from India when she was 3 years old. “I don't think it's ever been more clear how much we need that.”

Though Tipirneni, 52, left her role in the emergency room before the pandemic hit, the crisis has taken center stage in her campaign. As cases in Arizona soared over the summer, Tipirneni called out Republicans for continuing to push for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. In May, she wrote on Facebook that it “is *literally* life or death [sic.].” She talks to Bustle about her sick-day cure-alls and comfort foods.

On mealtime priorities:

“I learned the value and the significance of cooking for family by watching my mom. Even though she worked 40-hour weeks, she made sure we had a fresh-made dinner every night, which now I know takes an incredible amount of preparation and thought. I remember helping chop vegetables [and] stirring the pot of whatever she was making.”

On the comfort of dal:

“One of my favorite dishes from when I was a child is a traditional dal. It's like the lentil soup at Indian restaurants. It’s become a staple for my kids as well. It's comfort food and a quick fallback. There's always a little dal in the fridge, and it's never a bad day to have a big bowl of dal and rice. When my kids come home from college, or if they've been sick, it’s one of the things that they ask for.”

On food as medicine:

“When anyone has an upset stomach or GI issue, there's a dish called kitchdee [I recommend.] It’s a mixture of rice with a specific kind of dal in it. It's just very mild and soothing on your stomach. And my mother used to try to get me to drink this horrible thing when I had a cough. It was basically turmeric milk — milk with turmeric powder in it. God, it was the worst, but my brother loved it and claimed it helped him. I could never get past one sip without trying to spit it out.”

On surviving residency:

“It was tough. The timing and physicality of that job are very demanding. It’s ironic, because you’re a healthcare professional [and] making sure people are healthy, but I definitely didn’t [have] a well-balanced diet. With that being said, I remember the occasional Sunday when my husband and I were both off and could make a home-cooked meal. Those opportunities were few and far between.”

On how the campaign has shifted domestic roles:

“My husband has been a fantastic partner. After all the years when I did most of the cooking and [grocery] shopping, he's really stepped up to the plate. He handles the meals, shopping, and all of that now. And I’ve been able to enjoy his cooking — he makes great Indian food.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.