Physicians

We Need a Doctor In the House — And the Senate

Historically, practicing physicians have shunned politics. If our democracy is to survive, these times demand thoughtful solutions and difficult decisions. Few individuals are better suited to the task than the Hippocratic physician.

Behind the scenes, a quiet and unassuming movement is afoot destined to reshape the future of American health care—and possibly the entire landscape of American politics.

The House currently has fourteen physicians. The Senate has two. This means less than 3% of our elected officials in Washington come from one of the most trusted professions in America—medicine. But that is about to change.

Rising from the ranks of my home state, three North Carolina physicians are running for Congress to address our nation’s daunting challenges. Dr. B. J. Lawson, Dr. James Taylor, and Dr. Dan Eichenbaum seek to represent the 4th, 6th, and 11th Congressional districts. Should they be elected, North Carolina would have a larger physician representation than any state in the Union—three of thirteen Congressional seats, nearly 25%. But why should America care?

In “Precepts” Hippocrates once wrote, “For if love of men is present, love of the art is also present.” In “On Breaths” he added, “The physician sees terrible things, touches what is loathsome, and from others’ misfortunes harvests troubles of his own.” For the Hippocratic physician, the well-being of the individual was of primary concern—not power, not money, not personal gain, and most assuredly, not the supremacy of the State. The Hippocratic physician was born to serve his fellow man.

But such servant leaders are in short supply in Washington today. An air of entitled aristocracy permeates our political class. Rather than guarding hard-earned taxpayer dollars with sacred trust, politicians spend with reckless abandon. Rather than leaving Washington to live under the laws they pass, most politicians cling to power for as long as possible.

Washington has become a city where pork and payoffs rule the day. Where backroom deals and buried earmarks are accepted as they way things get done. Where health care reform becomes about politics, power, and payoffs, not patient care. Americans chafe against this sad perversion of power. To reclaim our representative government, We the People must find new leadership.

Historically, practicing physicians have shunned politics—and for good reason. As we open the clinic door or push aside the emergency room curtain, our patient’s political leanings never cross our mind. Nor should they.

However, our nation now moves into complex and perilous waters. Trillions of dollars of unfunded Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security obligations must be addressed. The exploding American debt now threatens our very independence. If our democracy is to survive, these times call for thoughtful solutions and difficult decisions. Few individuals are better suited to make these difficult decisions than the Hippocratic physician.

To save the patient the surgeon must sometimes cut to cure. To fight some cancers the oncologist must prescribe chemotherapy. Physicians must not only understand the details of a complex system and make the correct diagnosis, they must treat the illness, even if the patient does not want to hear what the physician has to say. Physicians know that alleviating symptoms does not address the disease, that more is needed however difficult.

The behavior of two prominent physician/politicians, Senators Bill Frist and Tom Coburn demonstrate the credibility of the physician statesman. In sharp contrast to today’s permanent political aristocracy, Senator Frist stepped down after achieving the position of Senate Majority Leader. Why? He had promised the voters he would serve for 12 years and no more—he kept his word. Few individuals can walk away from such power. In contrast to Washington’s common but corrupt practice of earmarks, Senator Coburn has opposed wasteful spending (by both parties) so aggressively he earned the nickname Dr. No. Like Senator Frist, he too has pledged to relinquish power after 12 years of service.

In the fall of 2010, North Carolina may serve as a bell-weather state. North Carolina’s state motto, “esse quam videri”—to be, not to seem to be, distinguishes the politician from the statesman. The politician is concerned with perception; the statesman is driven by character. Voters must decide if these three physicians can be statesmen. If elected, these three men must prove that they are.

Facing overwhelming debt, we need politicians willing to make tough decisions. In dealing with a subject as complex as health care reform, we need men and women who understand how decisions in Washington impact patient care at the bedside. Americans desperately seek elected officials committed to financial responsibility, Constitutional fidelity, and the sanctity of the patient/physician relationship. Two questions remain:

1) Will such servant/leaders rise to the fore?
2) Will We the People recognize who they are and send them to Washington?

C. L. Gray, M.D., is president of Physicians for Reform.

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Comment SmartbrainsPam TollMarion D. Thorpe, Jr. MD MPHHenry MassingaleGary Lampman Recent comment authors
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Comment Smartbrains
Guest

The only reason these people aren’t a complete joke is because they blow things up when they get mad. Their culture is irrelevant and their nation-states are in squalor because they use religion to keep their people ignorant and subjugated. Every time one of their “leaders” gets a chapped pucker they find a way to blame it on the US.
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Comment Smartbrains
Guest

The only reason these people aren’t a complete joke is because they blow things up when they get mad. Their culture is irrelevant and their nation-states are in squalor because they use religion to keep their people ignorant and subjugated. Every time one of their “leaders” gets a chapped pucker they find a way to blame it on the US.
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Comment Smartbrains
Guest

The only reason these people aren’t a complete joke is because they blow things up when they get mad. Their culture is irrelevant and their nation-states are in squalor because they use religion to keep their people ignorant and subjugated. Every time one of their “leaders” gets a chapped pucker they find a way to blame it on the US.
http://furniturepackagesspain.co.uk
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Comment Smartbrains
Guest

The only reason these people aren’t a complete joke is because they blow things up when they get mad. Their culture is irrelevant and their nation-states are in squalor because they use religion to keep their people ignorant and subjugated. Every time one of their “leaders” gets a chapped pucker they find a way to blame it on the US.
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Comment Smartbrains
Guest

The only reason these people aren’t a complete joke is because they blow things up when they get mad. Their culture is irrelevant and their nation-states are in squalor because they use religion to keep their people ignorant and subjugated. Every time one of their “leaders” gets a chapped pucker they find a way to blame it on the US.
http://furniturepackagesspain.co.uk
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Comment Smartbrains
Guest

The only reason these people aren’t a complete joke is because they blow things up when they get mad. Their culture is irrelevant and their nation-states are in squalor because they use religion to keep their people ignorant and subjugated. Every time one of their “leaders” gets a chapped pucker they find a way to blame it on the US.
http://furniturepackagesspain.co.uk
Furniture Packages Spain

Comment Smartbrains
Guest

The only reason these people aren’t a complete joke is because they blow things up when they get mad. Their culture is irrelevant and their nation-states are in squalor because they use religion to keep their people ignorant and subjugated. Every time one of their “leaders” gets a chapped pucker they find a way to blame it on the US.
http://furniturepackagesspain.co.uk
Furniture Packages Spain

Comment Smartbrains
Guest

The only reason these people aren’t a complete joke is because they blow things up when they get mad. Their culture is irrelevant and their nation-states are in squalor because they use religion to keep their people ignorant and subjugated. Every time one of their “leaders” gets a chapped pucker they find a way to blame it on the US.
http://furniturepackagesspain.co.uk
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Pam Toll
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Pam Toll

lso the FEDERAL GOVT DOES NOT dictate to the States where or HOW to spend their medicaid dollars that is why this happened in IL. FEDS should mandate the kind of care qualifying poor persons on medicaid can receive without any equivication that we can have our teeth saved repaired surgery crowns and proper eye glasses which we Do not now get cause the STATE OF IL Claims no money for poor adults!
Posted by: Pam Toll | May 09, 2010 at 08:44 AM

Pam Toll
Guest
Pam Toll

lso the FEDERAL GOVT DOES NOT dictate to the States where or HOW to spend their medicaid dollars that is why this happened in IL. FEDS should mandate the kind of care qualifying poor persons on medicaid can receive without any equivication that we can have our teeth saved repaired surgery crowns and proper eye glasses which we Do not now get cause the STATE OF IL Claims no money for poor adults!
Posted by: Pam Toll | May 09, 2010 at 08:44 AM

Pam Toll
Guest
Pam Toll

Also the FEDERAL GOVT DOES NOT dictate to the States where or HOW to spend their medicaid dollars that is why this happened in IL. FEDS should mandate the kind of care qualifying poor persons on medicaid can receive without any equivication that we can have our teeth saved repaired surgery crowns and proper eye glasses which we Do not now get cause the STATE OF IL Claims no money for poor adults!

Pam Toll
Guest
Pam Toll

I agree and I will volunteer as a consultant to the application of the insurance coverages as approved by the DRs to assure our senate that these types of care n treatments would be covered. Legislation failed to cover many areas of medical care for example. If you are in a bad accident and break your teeth but need surgery your teeth is considered dental , while you are laying out in a surgery unit at a hospital a Dental surgeon comes in and fixes u up but there is absolutely no binding coverage between your MEDCAL COVERAGE and that… Read more »

MD as HELL
Guest
MD as HELL

Margalit,
Ever hear of Dr. Howard Dean?

ExhaustedMD
Guest
ExhaustedMD

Ms G-A: You are right. And that is what is wrong. Principles of what define being a health care provider drive decisions and acts, not what is convenient or popular. And that is why these “doctors” are running for office. Because they are running away from their original dedication. And, good riddance to them. You can direct public policy by being an advisor to responsibe political representatives. As soon as you join this current system, you are lost. Again, look at the deeds of these candidates. They are not good providers now. Sorry if that is an overgeneralization. But look… Read more »

Margalit Gur-Arie
Guest
Margalit Gur-Arie

Dear Dr. Exhausted, you keep my writing honest and I greatly appreciate that. I should have written “political office seeking physicians” instead of “politically inclined”.
Unfortunately health care is now hopelessly tangled with politics. I’m not sure who is to blame, but that’s what is happening and this site reflects reality.