The brutal 2018 Parkland, Fla., school shooting changed everything for Mount Pleasant Dr. Annie Andrews.
“Before that, I was not political,” she said. “I was a voter. I really didn’t get engaged. The Parkland shooting propelled me to join Moms Demand Action.”
On that tragic February day at Stoneman Douglas High School, a 19-year-old shot and killed 17 people and wounded 17 others.
Andrews said joining the national effort to reduce gun violence directly relates to her day job as a pediatrician who cares for children. But it also opened her eyes to understand she needed to do more.
“It helped me understand how the lawmaking process happens,” Andrews said on a bright July day in an open, comfortable living room with a huge vaulted ceiling. “It snowballed and started me seeing all of the other issues.”
Andrews, 41, is the Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress. She wants to replace incumbent freshman Nancy Mace, a Republican who won a tight primary in June.
“The more time you spend among lawmakers, you realize you are fully capable of doing that job,” she said. “Most of them are not experts at anything and that’s OK if you seek out experts when you need it.”
But all too often, that doesn’t happen, she said, pointing to the political debate over guns in America which she says is defined more by rhetoric and is “completely devoid of facts.”
“Every decision I make in health care is data-inspired,” she said. “Treatment is based on data. If our laws were based on data, we could do so much good. It’s a totally different approach to problem-solving.”
Lover of shrimp, grits and the Lowcountry lifestyle
Andrews, born in Kentucky but raised in Indiana, came to the Lowcountry in 2009, fresh out of medical school at the University of Cincinnati and a pediatric residency in Cincinnati. She joined the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) as a pediatrician, caring for children and teens throughout the Lowcountry at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.
In 2011, Andrews married Charlie Andrews, a neurological critical care doctor at MUSC, at a ceremony on Charleston Harbor. Now, they’re raising three children in an updated 2,747-square-foot cottage home near Shem Creek. It’s got a crisp, airy great room that’s open to a stylish kitchen. A white-countertopped island features hydrangeas from the front yard and an icy pitcher of tea glistening with beads of condensed water. Nearby is Charlie’s office. Just down a hall off the master bedroom is another office — Andrews’ small pink office that looks out onto a kidney-shaped pool.
There’s always something good in the refrigerator, but necessities include milk, sparkling water, berries, eggs and cheese.
Andrews, true to Midwestern roots, said a cheeseburger is her favorite food. But she’s grown to enjoy cooking shrimp and grits, a favorite of one of her children. With the trial and error of a scientist, she said she has learned to cook the grits in chicken stock, eventually adding butter, cheese and milk. She sautes the shrimp in butter. After she puts the shrimp on the grits, she crumbles bacon on top, to the delight of her family.
Doing what’s right for kids
Just this month, Andrews was promoted to become a professor of pediatrics. She’s also stepped away from the active life of a daily pediatrician to focus on the congressional race.
“I always wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “The science particularly fascinated me.”
As a pediatrician, she said she enjoys the fact that when children come to the hospital, she gives them the best care possible — regardless of who they are or where they are from.
“I get to treat them with a standard of care — no matter what.”
Then she started doing clinical research into reducing gun violence to reduce the number of pediatric injuries from firearms. She started talking with groups and advocating for gun violence prevention, particularly through calls for measures to store guns safely and provide better education about gun safety.
The research and advocacy led her to realize that she could help more than individual patients, but a population by making things safer for kids.
And the logical extension — running for Congress to help kids across the country.
“Why isn’t it everyone’s priority to do what’s best for kids?” she asks. “It seems to be obvious to me.”
Making data-driven decisions
Andrews said she wants to help members of Congress focus on the importance of using science in making decisions for the country.
“Every single committee could benefit from people with a scientific background who are data-driven in their decision-making,” she said. “We are not in a normal election cycle. There are so many urgent issues now that we have to right the ship.”
Andrews has pledged she would only serve three terms in Congress, if elected.
“This election is going to be about women’s reproductive health and gun violence,” she said, adding that more people are paying attention to politics now than ever before, particularly after a May school shooting in Texas that left 19 dead and 17 wounded.
She also said she felt she was in the right place at the right time to help lead people away from anger and fear that’s infected the nation.
“I’d feel a little helpless if I was just a bystander when all of this is happening.”
THE LOWDOWN ON Dr. Annie Andrews
Birthplace: Paducah, Kentucky.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Dayton; Master’s degree in clinical research, Medical University
of South Carolina; M.D., University of Cincinnati.
Current profession: Pediatrician and professor of pediatrics, MUSC.
Also of interest: Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress,
1st District of S.C.; and gun violence prevention researcher.
Family: Husband, Charlie, and three children.
Pets: Cleveland, 13.
Something people would be surprised to learn about you:
“My first job was at a strawberry farm in Indianapolis,
where I grew up.”
Favorite thing to do outside of work: “Playing board games with my kids.”
Your passion: Gun violence prevention: “It’s the leading cause of death of children. I’m a pediatrician and researcher. Every single one of those deaths is preventable.”
Favorite novels: Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,
by Michael Chabon.
Favorite cocktail or beverage: Tequila with lime
and Topo Chico.
Three people (alive or dead) you’d like to dine with:
Actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michelle Obama
and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
What meal would you want served to you for your last supper: A good steak, Brussels sprouts and flourless
Secret vice: “Watching bad romantic comedies.”
Guilty pleasure: “Drinking my coffee in bed on weekend mornings.”
Favorite musicians: Adele, Taylor Swift, Beyonce
and Dave Matthews.
Childhood hero: Princess Leia.
Pet peeve: “Children chewing with mouths open.”
Philosophy: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Your advice for better living: “Don’t sweat the small stuff. Find balance. Find the joy in every day. Don’t take anything you have for granted.”
Your advice for someone new to Charleston: “Buy lots of sunscreen. Throw away your ice scraper. Make sure the air conditioner in your car works. Buy rain boots. Don’t stress so much about hurricanes — you get plenty of warning.”
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