Written by Mallory Kvek
Sharon Girard is running for Arizona House of Representatives for Legislative District 8.
As a House Representative, Sharon will draft, introduce, and vote on legislation in Arizona. She will also enact bills that are referred to voters for approval, and can place Arizona constitutional amendments on the ballot for voters. The House is the lower chamber of Arizona Legislature and is made up of 60 representatives, two from each of Arizona’s 30 legislative districts. The House has other responsibilities, including approving the State’s budget, and holds the sole power for impeachment of elected state officials, although defers to the Senate for any trial or conviction.
Sharon was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. Her father enlisted in the Navy, graduated form Syracuse College in New York, and worked in quality control engineering. Sharon’s mother was a community volunteer and human resources director.
She graduated from Ocean Township High School in Oakhurst, New Jersey in 1972, where she found her love of Drama Club, performing in many plays and programs. Her passion for Community Musical Theater has lasted throughout her life; she has over 30 years of experience as a director, choreographer, stage manager, and performer. She has trained for a professional ballet career and has taught ballet at The Studio in Casa Grande, and jazz at Robson Ranch.
Sharon moved to California after graduating high school. There she attended LA Valley College, earning her place on the Dean’s List for the entire program, graduating in 1979. After LAVC, she attended the University of Southern California. While raising her 18 month old daughter, Sharon accomplished scoring 100% on her oral boards and was in the 95th percentile on her written boards. Sharon graduated at the top of her class, earning a degree as a Physician Assistant in 1983.
Sharon completed her post graduate residency from 1990 to 1991 at the North Central Bronx Hospital, working in OB/Gyn care and surgery. She attended Nova Southeastern University in Florida from 2001 to 2003, taking courses towards a Master in Medical Science.
Sharon has one married daughter who lives and works in the Los Angeles area. Sharon and her husband, artist Kirk Tatom, have been married for over 10 years.
Sharon worked as a Physician Assistant for over 30 years. She has worked in OB/Gyn with Planned Parenthood, rural and migrant health clinics, and emergency departments. Sharon has volunteered in free clinics, serving women, men, and children with no health insurance. The stories of these under-served families she’s helped throughout the years is what motivated her to political advocacy. She recognizes there are critical issues in our healthcare system and sees the challenges those in rural areas face. She has been a community activist for women’s reproductive rights and issues of equality from the 1960s to the present.
Sharon is an active community member. In addition to organizing the first anniversary celebration of the Women’s March in Casa Grande, she is a member of the Arizona State Association of Physician Assistants, Clinicians for Choice, California Academy of Physician Assistants, Rotary, and a lifetime member of Hadassah. As a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Sharon rose to leadership positions serving on the Clinical and Scientific Affairs Council, House of Delegates, and the referendum committee. Sharon is the former President for the Central Coast Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner Association and a founding Board Member for PAs in OB/Gyn. In 2017, Sharon attended Emerge Arizona Bootcamp along side Christina Marsh, Linda and Holly Lyon, and Felicia French.
Sharon has become a nationally recognized leader in Adolescent Pregnancy, as a frequent conference speaker and has published articles on the subject. Sharon will make history as the first ever elected Planned Parenthood clinician in the country, according to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
In 2008, Sharon practiced as a PA in England as part of a pilot program to bring the PA profession to the UK. A little over a decade later, the program is booming there. Sharon was so moved by her experience, she wrote the book “A PA in the UK”. She discusses her work with OB/Gyn and dermatology in England, as well as the National Health Service. Seeing the positive impact the NHS has made on healthcare in England is why Sharon wants to work on our healthcare system to make it work for everyone, not just the very poor or rich. For example, in England, medication costs were equal to about $15 co pay and otherwise free if you were under 18, a full time student, over 60, or had a chronic disease such as high blood pressure or diabetes. In the United States, the average American spends $1200 annually on prescription drugs. See A PA in the UK, by Sharon Girard for more eye opening facts and information.
During Sharon’s downtime, she enjoys knitting and traveling the world. Last year, she and Kirk traveled to 19 states and put over 9,000 miles on their RV traveling through the United States and Canada.
I had the honor of speaking with Sharon about her life, vision for Arizona, and views on current issues Arizonans face.
How can we flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic in America?
We deserve legislators who believe in science and data. David Cook is on record not to believe in climate change. We must do better for the future of our state. We must have a mask mandate until we have a good vaccine and widespread immunization.
How has the pandemic affected the education system, and what is your plan to overcome that?
We must prioritize education funding and fully fund our public schools to at least 2008 levels and beyond to account for inflation. We must expand funding to make sure all schools have PPE and the necessary equipment to be safe for return in person. Right now, we don’t have the funds necessary. We must also have a moratorium on Charter schools until there is full accountability and transparency.
We must expand funding for childcare for those in need. Now is a time to talk to stakeholders and work creatively to solve problems of education in a pandemic. There is an opportunity for new ways of teaching, and opportunities for growth and change in our educational system like never before.
What areas of our healthcare system would you work to improve to better support Arizonans if elected?
We must open up the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) for those who fall through the cracks to buy into the system. No one should be without healthcare, yet 750,000+ Arizonans do not have insurance. We must expand KidsCare as we are one of the worst states for funding childhood insurance.
We must do better. Expand rural healthcare access, educate and employ more Nurse Practitioners/Physician Assistants in rural settings. We must expand PA practices to full practice authority, allowing them to compete with NPs so both professions can be used to their best advantage; caring for those in need in rural and under-served areas where there are a lack of doctors.
Arizona has a doctor shortage and we must find ways that are safe and affordable to fill this void. We also need to expand AHCCCS to dental care which is an important part of healthcare, and also provide more access to mental health services in rural communities.
In the past, Arizona has voted against adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution. How do you plan to advance the protection of women’s rights?
First on the agenda, pass the bill in the Legislature and be the 39th state to do so!
How do you view social justice inequality in Arizona, and what is your plan to mend our broken system?
We need criminal justice reform, Arizona incarcerates too many people. Our rate per 100,000 is greater than all of the U.S., combined.
We need to eliminate private prisons. Incarcerating people should not be a profit oriented business. For those employed by these prisons, we should offer free job training for other careers. I once worked with the best ER nurse ever. He was retrained after our GM plant closed. We need nurses and other trades. Job retraining is a great example of offering people a better life and a career choice that guarantees good pay and good benefits.
We must also look to police training. In our district, the town of Superior employs police that have been fired for cause in other departments. We must have a reliable tracking system that alerts departments when these employees look for jobs in other police departments. We only want good police working. We must also look to other ways to guarantee people will be treated fairly by the police and offer more training programs for them.
If elected, what is your #1 priority to address?
My first priority would be public health and healthcare funding. During a pandemic, no one should be without healthcare and no one should go into debt or bankruptcy because of bills. Also, people avoid care because of cost, this is wrong. Everyone should feel free to access care and know it will be affordable and serve their needs!
Who has influenced you the most in your life, and why?
My mentors have been strong successful women along the way. I am thankful to know Rep. Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus who has endorsed my campaign and helped me as a candidate. She is the only elected Physician Assistant in Congress, and I plan to be the first elected Physician Assistant to the Arizona Legislature.
What would you like to be known for in the history books?
I have always fought for women’s rights since high school. I want to be remembered for fighting for what is right. I would also like to be remembered by my patients for helping them in their time of need. When a patient thanks me, it makes it all worthwhile.
What is your vision for Legislative District 8 and for Arizona?
I see a bright future of progress, but we have work to do. We must work on climate change issues. We must work on responsible growth in our fast growing district. We must be responsible with our water issues, agriculture issues, new businesses and residential growth. We have an opportunity for an exciting future but we must be smart. That is why, now more than ever, we need lawmakers who are careful, pragmatic, and data driven. Science and facts will lead the way. Now is the time to create a growing economy and a great public educational system that will prepare children and families for what is to come.
Given the state of the country, what would you tell teenagers and young adults who are coming to age during President Trump’s 4 years in office?
As a teenager, I knew I wanted to help and fight for women’s rights. That is what led me to healthcare, to care for women who were pregnant or those who needed help caring for their bodies and learning how they worked. I would tell teens to find their passion.
I would also encourage them to volunteer. I started out at 13 volunteering as a candy striper. My mother always volunteered, as a Brownie and Girl Scout leader and at the hospital as a “grey lady”. I have mentored students in high school who are thinking about a medical career. I have been a member of many community organizations and boards as a volunteer, including Rotary, leadership programs, and women’s organizations. I made my daughter volunteer, and at 40 she still does. We must give back to our community. As a volunteer you will see what is our there, meet great people, and do something bigger than yourself. It is now time for the younger generation to fight for our climate, equality, and racial justice. Find your passion and volunteer.