More doctors need to vote and get politically involved

Doctors do not vote -. At least not enough

are less likely to vote lawyers, other professionals, farmers and the general population. In some recent elections, less than a third of doctors voted.

It is not clear why. Some doctors may be simply too busy and no time under work, can not get to the voting booth. Some may feel that patient care meets their sense of social purpose, so other forms of citizen participation, such as voting, seems less important. In fact, doctors appear to be voluntary and donate to candidates at lower rates than other professionals, too.

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A positive sign is that more doctors are now the elections. Between 1960 and 2004, only 25 members Congress were physicians, representing only 1 percent of elected representatives. Since 2005 however, 27 doctors have been elected to Congress, serving in 18 114th Congress alone. In a way, this represents a return to the roots More than 10 percent of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were doctors, and during the first 100 years of Congress, almost 5 percent its members were.

But a major disconnect it should be noted :. Doctors, as a group, are becoming more liberal, while representing the profession in Congress are almost exclusively conservative

Political donations made by doctors Republicans have decreased significantly in the last 20 years. In 1996, almost 75 percent of campaign contributions doctor went to Republicans; in 2012, fewer than half did. A key factor in this change is the increase of women and minority physicians, who tend to support Democrats. Medical students also are now much likely to identify as liberal that other young adults.

This contrasts with the doctors who are currently serving in Congress: They are all men, most are white, and all but three are Republicans. This is not problematic in itself, but it does suggest that representatives of doctors have very different views that medical electorate -. And those purporting to speak for the profession can not really be

Adding an important voice

Regardless of political affiliation, more politically active doctors could add an important voice of our political and social discussions. health care is the most important part of the economy, more than 17 percent of gross domestic product. In the presidential election of 2012, health care was the second most important issue to voters. This year, the pricing of prescription drugs emerged as a major public concern, and both Republican and Democratic voters government intervention in favor to help reduce prices.

Americans increasingly skeptical and disenchanted with politics, still they seem to trust doctors. A recent survey found that 90 percent of Americans had a “great deal” or “amount” of respect for physicians, compared with 48 percent of business executives, 45 percent of lawyers and 20 percent for politicians. They also identify doctors and professionals likely to make the right decisions for the health system.

Political participation could also help physicians preserve autonomy in a profession increasingly invaded by external factors such as guidelines, regulations, measures and payment changes. As medicine continues to evolve, we need to do a better job to help navigate and manage these changes. If abdicate our role in the political process, we do so at our own peril.

Finally, doctors are an increasingly rare link in an increasingly unequal society. Not only witness the struggles of the most disadvantaged members of the communities we serve, but also are able to do something about it. For doctors – unlike many politicians – it is more than theoretical, when a shelter is closed or canceled insurance benefit. It is not an abstract concept, when a young mother can not take a day off to see me for his diabetes, or elderly can not afford the drugs they prescribe. Our work requires us to deal with these problems in a visceral, not cerebral, way.

Doctors are the leaders of a health system that evolves now equal parts medicine, economics and politics. But we are not as involved as we need to be. Our responsibilities to patients and the public policies extend beyond clinics and hospitals. Not everyone can volunteer, donate, lawyer, or as candidates. But at least, let’s vote.

Dhruv Khullar MD, is a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School doctor.

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