Physicians do many things well. One thing they aren’t good at is showing up to vote. That bad habit starts early, and we believe it can — and must — be changed.
We don’t have data from recent elections, but studies from a decade ago show that physicians voted less often than the general population. (Lawyers, in contrast, were more likely to vote than the general population.) Given that health care accounts for almost one-fifth of the U.S. gross domestic product, and that new laws and regulations continuously alter the norms of medical practice, it is both curious and shameful that medical professionals fail to fulfill the basic civic responsibility of voting.
Several reasons have been tossed around to explain why physicians vote at such low rates. One is that doctors are so busy that it’s difficult to fit a trip to a polling place into an already packed day. Another explanation is that some physicians decide that the value of their single vote is too small to justify taking time away from patients in need. Low voting rates could also be part of broader disengagement from public life, consistent with evidence that physicians volunteer less often than other highly educated professionals and are less likely to donate to candidates.
But now more than ever physicians need to vote because the outcomes of elections are increasingly affecting their patients and their ability to care for them. Realizing this, many have called for more doctors to get politically involved. Although we’ve seen in recent years a swelling of physician advocacy on political issues, from repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act to “Dreamers” to gun violence, this engagement has largely taken the form of protests, marches, and social media campaigns. Far less energy has been invested into boosting the number of doctors who cast votes, the most fundamental form of civic engagement.
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Tuesday, October 9, 2018
Doctors in Politics
Suhas Gondi, Jonathan Kusner, and Yosef Berlyand at STAT: