Are Republicans allowed to be doctors?
A growing movement says no. Should we be concerned?
I am a progressive. I favor a strong regulatory state (please read my books and you will see!), and I support Bernie Sanders. But, because I have eyes and ears, I notice that not everyone agrees with me. It appears as if some of my fellow physicians are even….. dare I say it…the R word…. Republicans!
It turns out this is expected and normal in a huge country. Some doctors will be Democrats, and some will be Republicans. Doctors are just like our patients in that manner. In fact a simple figure shows it all
Who would have thought! Some doctors appear to be Republicans.
Now, there are a handful of issues that Republicans and Democrats really do not see eye to eye on. These include hot button medical issues like.. you know… and even an issue that is now pending before the Supreme Court— the use of Affirmative action in admissions processes.
Recently, at the society of Thoracic Surgeons, the speaker STS President John Calhoon showed this slide. I do not have a transcript or recording of his remarks, but you can read it here.
No surprise, it did not do well on twitter! (PS: even I could have told him that)
Public opinion polling shows considerable disagreement on the topic of Affirmative action by political party, and the Supreme Court is poised for a legal verdict by the summer. Most analysts expect it will be devastating for our current policies. Look at the difference between Republicans and Democrats below. (PS who are these 15% of Dems btw— better find them!)
In response to the speaker’s slide and rhetoric, criticism was launched on Twitter, and the organization issued a rebuke today (The whole episode reminded me of Norman Wang). Here is the rebuke.
Now for my question: For the sake of argument, let us say— and I know this will sound crazy— but let’s say that John Calhoon is a Republican. Unbelievable right!, but humor me. Hypothetically, this may align with the members of his specialty (and the name John Calhoon!). Thoracic surgery scores high among Republicans. For the sake of argument, let us stipulate that Dr. Calhoon agrees with the majority of his party, and the forthcoming Supreme Court majority. He is critical of affirmative action. I think his slide admits as much.
I can think of a million reasons why people would disagree with Dr. Calhoon. I can think of a million reasons why our federal policy should be different than what the court is about to do, but I ask a simple question: Is Dr. Calhoon allowed to exist? More broadly: Can a republican still be a doctor?
If all professional organizations and universities hold Democrat points of views on all issues, and issue statements denouncing anyone for holding Republican views, the question naturally becomes should we just finish this off and Republicans be banned from being doctors entirely?
Obviously, even though I am a progressive, I find that point of view chilling. I worry that it will create more mistrust of the medical profession and we push away 40% of American people who may agree with Dr. John Calhoon.
But, I am curious if someone actually thinks it is a defendable proposition. Given that most liberal, academic doctors and trainees think these views are harmful, and given that these views divide along political lines, would it be acceptable to ban Republicans from going to medical school and being doctors? Or ban them if they don’t hold Democratic majority views?
As a corollary, can we next ban, center left doctors? Shouldn’t we only accept doctors who agree with all our political positions? After all, all of medicine and public health is ultimately political. And, after all, political decisions have a greater impact of years of life lost than the entire enterprise of medicine? Beta blockers can never overcome childhood poverty, and poverty is a political choice.
I am curious if someone will defend this proposition: Republicans are banned from medical school. And, if not, why not? In the meantime, I worry that the ongoing quest in medicine to enforce a *one true opinion* and make that the liberal opinion (which ironically I generally share!) is a dangerous move, and can easily backfire. Perhaps one day, the conservatives have a stronger hold of institutions in medicine, and may learn to be more saavy with social media piles on, perhaps then, the views we care deeply about will be banned from medical school. Who knows?
In the meantime: Can a republican be a doctor? I don’t know the answer, but I sure as hell know one thing: Don’t tell them you are one during the interview process!