A Vanderbilt University orthopedic trauma surgeon, whose health foundation drew the attention of President Donald Trump, is running for the U.S. Senate.
Dr. Manny Sethi, whose parents are both doctors who legally migrated from India to practice medicine in the farming community of Hillsboro in Coffee County, is a Republican.
He's a conservative outsider running for statewide election to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.
He was in Henry County Thursday, visiting County Mayor Brent Greer and giving The Post-Intelligencer an exclusive interview about his candidacy.
Sethi also talked with fishermen on Kentucky Lake, because he wanted to announce in Henry County his plan to tackle the Asian carp invasion in Tennessee.
"Asian carp is an invasive species that poses a threat to Tennessee’s rivers, streams and lakes,” he said. "Silver carp, a type of Asian carp, can grow up to 60 pounds and leap up to eight feet in the air.
"These fish can seriously injure boaters and those engaged in water sports. Because Asian carp migrate from state to state, this issue must be addressed at the federal level.
“Tennessee has done an excellent job of tracking the spread of Asian carp and addressing it in our state. We need federal resources as part of the effort to stop the spread of Asian carp.
"They are depleting food sources and changing the entire ecosystem of rivers and streams. Native fish are at risk of being replaced entirely by this invasive species,” Sethi said.
“Because of this, we face huge economic threats if the Asian carp invasion continues. By using federal resources on the front end, we can save ourselves millions of dollars in the long run.
"As Asian carp continue to reproduce and migrate, there is also an economic threat to our state. Boating and fishing are a way of life for many Tennesseans, and they are part of the economy in many Tennessee counties. To protect them, the Asian carp population must be controlled.
Sethi released the following plan to address the Asian carp threat in Tennessee:
• Continue to study the efficacy of the $25 million experimental barrier at Barkley Lock.
• Support state solutions such as construction of sound barriers at other possible points of entry.
• Support public-private partnerships to incentivize fishermen to catch Asian carp.
• Consider electric barriers, such as those being tried on the Ohio River, as necessary to reduce the carp population.
“I care very deeply about what happens across our state,” he said. “I think we need to do more.”
Sethi said one of the Kentucky Lake fishermen with whom he talked told him Asian carp messed up his motor, costing him $1,000 to have repaired.
Talking about public-private partnerships to make fishing for Asian carp more profitable, he said over the past two years, Asian carp fishing on Kentucky Lake as quadrupled.
“That helps,” Sethi said, pointing out that Henry County is the 35th most popular tourist destination in Tennessee and needs protection from Asian carp, which is destroying the ecosystem on our waters.
He said it costs much less to prevent problems on the front end, rather than spending much more later reacting to the problem.
He said he learned that well in his medical career. After earning his undergraduate degree at Brown University, he earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. After college, as a Fulbright Scholar, he worked in Tunisia with children suffering from muscular dystrophy.
He and his wife, Maya, have two children and attend McKendree United Methodist Church.
In 2011, the Sethis founded Healthy Tennessee, a nonprofit organization which promotes preventative healthcare across the state. He said it’s cared for thousands of patients statewide.
Sethi said their foundation’s work in preventing health problems also applies to preventing much more serious and costly problems with Asian carp.
He said Healthy Tennessee gives power to local communities. “We need to empower our neighbors to help one another.”
Speaking of Trump, Sethi said, “I think he’s our greatest president.”
In 2016, Trump invited him to Washington to learn about Healthy Tennessee. The next time he gets a chance to talk with the president, Sethi said:
“The first thing I will say is to tell him how proud I am of what he’s done in office … especially the last couple of months fighting COVID-19.
He said more testing and more studies are needed to improve our response to COVID-19 and develop a vaccine and better treatments.
“We can’t shut down America again,” Sethi added.
Then he said he’d tell Trump, “We rely too much on communist China” for products we need.
“We need to bring our supply chain back home,” especially for personal protective equipment like gowns, gloves and masks needed during this pandemic.
Sethi said West Tennessee has plenty of places to manufacture such things, reducing unemployment and improving our economy.
Tennesseans are sick and tired of career politicians, he said. “That’s why I am running for the U.S. Senate.
He said his strong Christian faith teaches him that less talk and more action, doing the Lord’s work, is what’s important.
He is the co-editor of An Introduction to Health Policy with former U.S. Sen. William Frist, M.D., and author of The American Dream in Tennessee: Stories of Faith, Struggle and Survival, a book about the power of faith, family and community in the treatment of near-life-ending trauma.
"I want to make a … difference and be your next United States senator,” Seth said. "The American Dream I have lived is in great peril and I want to fight and keep it alive.
"For too long, career politicians in Washington have said one thing and done the other while people in places like … Tennessee pay the price for a government that is out of touch with its own citizens.
"Whether it is fixing healthcare, cutting runaway spending, stopping illegal immigration or ending the opioid epidemic, I believe President Trump needs a trauma surgeon in the Senate who can act decisively for his patient, the people of Tennessee,” he said.
Sethi said the seven reasons he’s running are:
• Faith — "My faith is what shapes my views, and will guide every decision I make in Washington, as I work to fight for our Christian values.”
• Pro-life — "I am pro-life, period. As a doctor, I know that life begins at conception, and for too long politicians have failed to stand up for the sanctity of life.
"That is why I am a such a strong supporter of the heartbeat bill here in Tennessee and will do the same when I’m in D.C. We need to confirm judges who will protect life, and the most vulnerable, the unborn.”
• Opioid crisis — "I’ve seen the opioid epidemic firsthand; it is the public health crisis of our generation. I’ve been part of roundtables all across our state, and it’s clear that we need to put more power into local officials, because they know what is best for the people in their community.
"I also believe we need to punish pill-pushers who are pushing fentanyl. These drug dealers are directly responsible for this crisis and must be punished. We need the federal government to give more decision making authority to local communities.
"Our local mayors and sheriffs know more in their little fingers than D.C. bureaucrats do in their whole bodies. There is no one-size-fits-all solution here and we need to empower the leaders who know their communities the best.”
• Immigration — "I’m the son of two legal immigrants. They stood in line, waited their turn and came here the right way, becoming doctors in rural Tennessee.
"I support President Trump’s effort to build the wall, and support ICE. It simply isn’t right for people to illegally cross our borders unchecked or overstay their visas with no consequences. Giving benefits to those who come here illegally isn’t protecting the rule of law. We’re giving away our nation.”
• Healthcare — "As a doctor, I know first-hand the huge problems with Obamacare. I’m the only candidate in this race who has read the entire bill and understands it. We need less government involvement in our healthcare, not more.
"Working with President Trump, I’ll fight to repeal and replace it, without backing down. I oppose government in our healthcare, I oppose single-payer, and I oppose universal healthcare, period.
"The fundamentals of a healthcare system must be based on a free-market solution that allows competition across state lines. We must focus on access, quality and transparency.”
• Second Amendment — "I am a staunch supporter of our Second Amendment rights. As a concealed carry permit holder, I know that our constitutional rights are not up for debate.
"These days, you are hearing career politicians on both sides of the aisle talking about red flag laws. These are unconstitutional and will lead to many problems and bad-faith actors. I will fight to ensure our right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
• Veterans — "We can never neglect the brave men and women who have served our country. Our veterans are heroes, and we must do more to take care of these incredible people who have given so much for us.
"Our VA hospitals must improve, and I will commit to making that happen, but we have to allow our veterans the option to choose the doctor they want to go to.
"For too long we have neglected the mental health needs of our veterans. We must work to make sure that there is access to quality mental health care for every veteran who has served our country."