Ralph Northam has served as an Army doctor, business owner, and lieutenant governor. However, the thing his friends and family would tell you he’s most proud of is his career fighting for children—as a pediatric neurologist and volunteer medical director for a pediatric hospice care facility, he knows children are the key to Virginia’s future.
A life of service: Virginia Military Institute, Army veteran, pediatrician
Ralph grew up on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and attended local public schools. When his school desegregated, many families sent their children elsewhere—but not the Northams. Ralph’s called his parents’ decision to continue to send him to integrated schools “one of the best decisions of my life.”
Later on, Ralph attended the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), where he graduated with distinction. While at VMI, Ralph was elected by his peers to serve as president of the honor court, charged with upholding the school’s honor code.
After VMI, Ralph was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He attended Eastern Virginia Medical School and then traveled to San Antonio for a pediatric residency, where he met his wife Pam—a pediatric occupational therapist at the same hospital. Ralph served eight years of active duty and rose to the rank of major. Ralph did his residencies at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and he served as chief neurological resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital. As an Army doctor, he served in Germany, treating soldiers wounded in Operation Desert Storm.
When Ralph and Pam returned home, they chose to build their life not far from the same Chesapeake Bay he had grown up on. Ralph began practicing pediatric neurology at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk. He established Children’s Specialty Group, his current medical practice, to provide expert pediatric care for patients. Ralph also served as assistant professor of neurology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he taught medicine and ethics.
For 18 years, Ralph has volunteered as medical director for the Edmarc Hospice for Children in Portsmouth, where he cares for terminally ill children.
“They asked me if I would volunteer at the children’s hospice for one year. 18 years later, I’m still doing it. Those kids and their families have given me more than I could ever give back. They put everything in perspective.” -Ralph Northam
Ralph ran for the state senate, then lieutenant governor, because he believes you can find ways to work together while still staying true to your core beliefs. Ralph approaches public service with the same passion he brought to his military and medical service—and he gets results.
“Never once did an injured soldier stop me before a medical procedure to check if I was a Democrat or Republican. And I never asked them. We were all in it together. I look at government the same way.” -Ralph Northam
Ralph uses his experience as a pediatrician to protect the health and safety of Virginia’s children, like passing legislation creating guidelines for school sports teams to deal with concussions.
As a proud Army veteran, Ralph helped protect Virginia’s veterans by expanding needed healthcare and access to job opportunities. As lieutenant governor, he supported efforts to functionally end veteran homelessness in Virginia.
Ralph broke years of gridlock in Richmond by creating bipartisan support for legislation banning smoking in Virginia’s public restaurants—a major victory for public health. Restaurant owners originally opposed his efforts but today many praise Ralph’s vision and willingness to take on entrenched special interests to do what’s right for Virginia.
“As a state senator, Northam, an Army veteran with a low-key demeanor and quick, dry wit, focused on public health and became a stalwart on veterans, child welfare and women’s health issues.” Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/25/2015
As a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose, Ralph led the fight against the now infamous transvaginal ultrasound mandate, which would have required Virginia women seeking an abortion to undergo an intrusive and unnecessary procedure.
Ralph chairs the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success, where he helped secure a federal grant to create up to 13,000 pre-K education spots for children in low-income families and advocated for greater access to prenatal care. He also chairs the Governor’s Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response and led a team tasked with identifying challenges and suggesting improvements to the state’s complex system of mental health services.
Working with the current administration, Ralph has been on the forefront of attracting new companies, creating jobs, and building a New Virginia Economy. Virginia has seen more than $1 billion invested in our state’s education system and new reforms to workforce development. This has led to a reduction in the unemployment rate, and 195,800 additional net new jobs added to the Virginia workforce. Right now, more Virginians are employed than at any other time in the commonwealth’s history
Ralph has balanced these efforts by calling for fiscal responsibility through government efficiency and balanced state budgets.
“As lieutenant governor, I am proud to support progress for all Virginians. During the past two legislative sessions, I cast tie-breaking votes to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation in state government, to repeal the infamous and medically unnecessary ultrasound mandate, and to raise the minimum wage for all working Virginians.” -Ralph Northam
An economy that works for every Virginian
Ralph believes the key to Virginia’s success is creating an economy that gives every Virginian the opportunity to succeed, in every part of the state–no matter who, no matter where. That means building the best workforce in the nation, promoting fiscal responsibility and efficiency in government, and investing in growing industries like biotechnology, drone research, and cybersecurity.
“Years ago, I diagnosed a young boy with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy–a genetic disorder that affects thousands of young boys. He is now 14 years old, and if we do nothing, chances are he won’t survive to see his 21st birthday. But there is good news. Through biotechnology, we are on the cusp of being able to cure Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy–and the research is being done right here in Virginia. We need to do more to lead the way in these emerging technologies–biotechnology, cybersecurity, drone research–so we can grow Virginia’s economy and improve people’s lives.” -Ralph Northam
Today, Ralph lives with his wife Pam—most recently the community outreach coordinator at Lynnhaven River NOW—their black lab Murphy, and their cat Odysseus in Norfolk. They have two children: their son, Wes, a neurosurgery resident and their daughter, Aubrey, a recent graduate of UVA working as a web developer.