A majority of the 25 physicians were Republican (60 percent), and all but two served in the House of Representatives. Ranked by specialty, three were surgeons and three practiced obstetrics and gynecology. Several physicians had training in several disciplines, including two who were also lawyers. The average length of Congressional service by physicians was nine years.
The researchers suggested several possible reasons to explain the drop in physician representation in Congress, including training and a lack of significant financial incentive for public service. Physicians are trained to focus on patient care, not policy, they speculate, while lawyers are trained in law and have traditionally assumed roles in public service. Salaries in Congress are comparable to those in medicine, with the average family practitioner earning $139,000 per year, and the average rank-and-file member of the House and Senate earning $154,000 per year.
The researchers did not evaluate the influence of nonprofit health groups that practice government relations on behalf of physicians, especially the American Medical Association.
"Physicians, because of their unique and specialized training, need to be actively engaged as players in the legislative process of creating health policy, especially decisions about national funding for research and patient care," said lead study author Chadd Kraus, B.A., an emergency medicine researcher at Hopkins and graduate student at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Medical schools may need to broaden their curriculum to include an emphasis on the bigger picture of policy and government, when training the next generation of physicians, if they hope to have physi
Contact: David March
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions