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December 16, 2013
Freshman Facts: For Jimmy Gomez, health care is personal


Health care access is more than an abstraction to Jimmy Gomez. He traces his interest in the issue to a childhood case of pneumonia.

The youngest of six children of Mexican immigrant parents who worked multiple jobs to get by, Gomez fell ill and had to be hospitalized for a week when he was seven. He was swiftly made aware of the consequences.

"My siblings would remind me: because you got sick and we don't have health insurance, we don't get toys or the things other families can afford," Gomez said. "I remembered not having health insurance for the rest of my life."

It was a similar story when Gomez broke an ankle playing tackle football in high school and had the injury treated only after icing it, per his father's recommendation, didn't work.

Health care continued to interest Gomez during a winding route through college, a path that started with a community college anthropology class squeezed between jobs at Subway and Target and ended with a master's degree from Harvard.

He eventually switched his medically-oriented biochemistry major to political science, and after gigs working for AFSCME, Hilda Solis and the Hillary Clinton campaign - opposite his now-wife, employed by Barack Obama's campaign - Gomez landed at the California Nurses Association. His next stop was the Legislature and a spot on the Assembly Health Committee.

"It's one of the issues that has sat with me since I was a kid," Gomez said.

The 2013-2014 Legislature features the largest freshman class in decades. In this recurring series, Insider Edition helps get you acquainted with the influx of newcomers.