Bay Area surgeon also saves lives with political activism

 A Bay Area  surgeon who saves lives at work says his political activism can have the same effect.

He said candidates for office come and go and that he's learned that he can be more effective bringing about policy change by backing initiatives.

Dr. John Maa says he's been politically active for 13 years working to improve public health and safety.

He says affecting change can be a slow process but in Tuesday's  election... years of work paid off.

Dr. Maa is a surgeon at Marin General. He says his passion is saving lives, but his work takes him far beyond the operating room....

"The process of politics and public policy has been quite a journey," says Dr. Maa.

He says politics can be empowering if you have the perseverance to push ideas through.

"The most important lesson I've learned over the past 13 years is to focus on the issues rather than individuals. Individuals come and go.  But if you focus on doing the right thing for the health of the public,  for the state and for our nation, you're always on the right side," says Maa.

The surgeon says he supported Hillary Clinton for president but that the sting of her defeat is tempered by the victories.

All the ballot measures he's worked on for years were passed by voters: gun control, cigarette tax and soda tax.

"It was a culmination of three years of effort on each. It was a very big success for the health of the public," says Dr. Maa.

On each of those issues, he's experienced previous defeat at the ballot box, some more than once.

The doctor appeared in an ad for Prop V, the soda tax in San Francisco.

As a surgeon, he says he's operated on patients affected by the health problems caused by sugary drinks, cigarettes and gun violence.

"Taking care of gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, that's a core part of what we do and we witness as a profession the great harm all across America regularly," says Dr. Maa.

The doctor says he's worked with President Obama on public health and hopes to do the same with  President Elect Trump. It's about issues not individuals.

"I hope there will be opportunities to work with the new administration to continue to move the needle forward in public health," says Dr. Maa.  

He says the keys to success are patience, persistence and public education on the issues.

The surgeon says he'd like to see a statewide soda tax and hopes to get a federal tobacco tax sometime within the next 10 years.

Dr. Maa volunteers his time on these issues fundraising, securing endorsements, helping with strategy, speaking at events and phone banking.