These distinguished physicians are also successful politicians

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, for MDLinx
Published December 31, 2018

Key Takeaways

According to the results of a 2017 poll on the perception of honesty and ethical standards of 22 occupations conducted by Gallup, physicians rank near the top of all professions. In total, 16% of survey respondents ranked physicians as "very high" with respect to perceived trustworthiness and honesty, and 49% of respondents ranked physicians as "high." The only professions that outranked physicians in the poll were grade-school teachers, military officers, and nurses.

With all this demonstrated good will, physicians would be a logical vote in a political race: they're thoroughly trained in ethical considerations, and their professional lives are inherently political—whether it's diplomacy in the hospital, diplomacy in the office, diplomacy with colleagues, or even diplomacy with patients.

Here are four physicians who made the jump from serving individual patients to serving federal taxpayers in the US Congress.

Dr. Rand Paul

Republican US Senator Rand Paul, MD, lives in Bowling Green, KY, where he practiced ophthalmology for 18 years. Dr. Paul ran his own private practice and was dedicated to helping elderly patients. In his spare time, he still provides free eye surgeries to medically indigent people in Kentucky, as well as across the world. According to his website, "Dr. Paul's entrance into politics is indicative of his life's work as a surgeon: a desire to diagnose problems and provide practical solutions, whether it be in Bowling Green, Ky., or Washington, D.C."

For the 115th Congress (2017-2018), Dr. Paul was assigned to these committees:

  • Committee on Foreign Relations.
  • Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
  • Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
  • Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

In 2017 and 2018, Dr. Paul voted against the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, which proposed funding for farm credit, rural development, commodity support, conservation, food aid, and more through fiscal year 2023. He also voted for the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act amendment, which proposed withholding funding to sanctuary cities, and for repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Fun fact: In May 2015, Dr. Paul held a nearly 11-hour filibuster arguing against the mass collection of metadata and unwarranted wiretapping by the National Security Agency, as part of the renewal of the Patriot Act.

Dr. Amerish Babulal (Ami) Bera

Democratic US Congressman Ami Bera, MD, was an internist practicing in the Sacramento, CA, area before serving as Chief Medical Officer of Sacramento County. He was also professor of medicine and associate dean for admissions and outreach at the University of California-Davis. As a practicing physician, a focus of Dr. Bera's community efforts was healthcare affordability. According to his website, "In Congress, Bera uses the skills he learned as a doctor to listen to the people of Sacramento County and put people ahead of politics to move our country forward."

For the 115th Congress, Dr. Bera was assigned to these committees:

  • Committee on Foreign Affairs.
  • Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

In 2017 and 2018, Dr. Bera voted for The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. He also voted against the American Health Care Act of 2017, which proposed changing the budgetary and fiscal provisions of the ACA, and against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which proposed changing the federal criminal code to make it a crime to conduct an abortion on a fetus aged 20 weeks or more.

Fun fact: Dr. Bera is the longest-serving Indian-American in Congress.

Dr. Raul Ruiz

Democratic US Congressman Raul Ruiz, MD, MPH, MPP, worked as an emergency room physician in Rancho Mirage, CA, and prior to that at Harvard Medical School's Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA. Before being elected to Congress, Dr. Ruiz served as senior associate dean for community engagement and partnerships and was assistant clinical professor for emergency medicine at the University of California-Riverside School of Medicine. Dr. Ruiz founded the Coachella Valley Healthcare Initiative, a community-centered effort to create a regional plan to improve healthcare access and wellness in underserved and uninsured areas.

For the 115th Congress, Dr. Ruiz was assigned to the following committee:

  • Committee on Energy and Commerce.

In 2017 and 2018, Dr. Ruiz voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act; Kate's Law, which proposed stiffer criminal penalties for individuals in the country illegally who were convicted of crimes, deported, and subsequently re-entered the United States; and the American Health Care Act of 2017, which proposed changing the budgetary and fiscal provisions of the ACA.

Fun fact: Dr. Ruiz was the first Latino to receive three graduate degrees from Harvard University.

Dr. John Barrasso

Republican US Senator John Barrasso, MD, was an orthopedic surgeon in private practice in Casper, WY, for 24 years. During that time, he also served as President of the Wyoming Medical Society and was once hailed "Wyoming's Doctor."

For the 115th Congress, Dr. Barrasso was assigned to these committees:

  • Committee on Indian Affairs.
  • Committee on Energy and Natural Resource.
  • Committee on Environment and Public Works.
  • Committee on Foreign Relation.

In 2017 and 2018, Dr. Barrasso voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, repealing the ACA, and for Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Fun fact: In 2007, Dr. Barrasso was selected to take the seat of another senator who died while in office. He then won every subsequent campaign for re-election.

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