I'm Not a Doctor

A second opinion on the challenges and opportunities facing today's physicians.

Blog: A checkup on doctors seeking elected office

12:30 pm, Nov. 2

UPDATED 5:15 p.m.: If you can still find a telephone booth in Washington, it could probably serve as an adequate meeting room for the Democratic Congressional Physician Caucus, but that could change after the Nov. 6 election.

There are 19 physicians serving in Congress along with Dr. Donna Christensen, the nonvoting delegate representing the U.S. Virgin Islands. Christensen and Dr. James McDermott, a Washington state psychiatrist, are the only Democratic doctors in Congress—though they may soon have a lot more company. Of course, they both have to be re-elected first.

With the exception of Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas OB-GYN and erstwhile presidential candidate, all of the GOP doctors in the House are running for re-election. They are: Dan Benishek (Michigan, general surgeon); Charles Boustany (Louisiana, cardiovascular surgeon); Paul Broun (Georgia, family medicine); Larry Bucshon (Indiana, thoracic surgeon); Michael Burgess (Texas, OB-GYN); Bill Cassidy (Louisiana, gastroenterologist); Scott DesJarlais (Tennessee, family medicine); John Fleming (Louisiana, family medicine); Phil Gingrey (Georgia, OB-GYN); Andy Harris (Maryland, anesthesiologist); Nan Hayworth (New York, ophthalmologist); Joe Heck (Nevada, emergency medicine); Tom Price (Georgia, orthopedic surgeon); and Phil Roe (Tennessee, OB-GYN). Heck, by the way, is the only D.O., or doctor of osteopathy, in Congress.

Boustany, whose congressional district was wiped off the map by redistricting, has the most unusual race. Louisiana congressional elections are classified as "open primaries," with all the candidates appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot. So Boustany is running against four candidates—two Republicans, one Democrat and a Libertarian—for his state's 3rd District seat, and if no one gets a majority of the vote, the top two finishers face each other in a Dec. 8 runoff election. Among Boustany's foes are the 3rd District incumbent, Republican Jeff Landry, and political newcomer and another Republican physician, Dr. Bryan Barrilleaux.

All three Senate physicians are Republicans. Dr. Tom Coburn (Oklahoma, family medicine) and Dr. Rand Paul (Kentucky, ophthalmologist) get to sit this election out. Only Dr. John Barrasso (Wyoming, orthopedic surgeon) is up for re-election. The sole other physician running for Senate is Dr. Richard Carmona, a general surgeon and the former U.S. surgeon general, who became the Democratic nominee from Arizona after Dr. David Ruben, a Tucson psychiatrist, dropped out of the race.

Democrat John LaFerla, (Maryland, OB-GYN) is running a write-in campaign, while the Democratic physician candidates on House ballots are: Ami Bera (California, general practice); David Gill (Illinois, emergency and family medicine); Mary Headrick (Tennessee, internist); Raul Ruiz (California, emergency medicine); Syed Taj (Michigan, internist); and Manan Trivedi (Pennsylvania, internist).

Other Republican physicians seeking House seats are: Marisha Agana (Ohio, pediatrician), Elizabeth Childs (Massachusetts psychiatrist), George Flinn (Tennessee, radiologist) and Evelyn Li (California cardiologist).

Also on the ballot is Dr. Jill Stein, a Massachusetts internist and the Green Party's candidate for president. Her campaign didn't get much attention until she was arrested Oct. 31 in Winnsboro, Texas, and charged with trespassing after attempting to deliver food to protesters camped in trees and seeking to block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.


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