Time for a Physician President

May 6, 2013

Perhaps it is time for physicians who have a keen eye for detail, an ear for what is really ailing us, and a forward-thinking mind, to take a shot at leading our nation.

Noted neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson is making news following his recent comments at the National Prayer Breakfast and Conservative Political Action Conference, speaking on healthcare reform, the real problems with the federal government today, and his own future plans.

At the prayer breakfast, standing a few feet away from the president, Carson touted the benefits of taking more personal responsibility for one's own well-being, and continued along this path by discussing the rising dangers of an increased federal role in personal lives.

Set to retire as a practicing physician in June, Carson hinted - then backtracked - about a possible run for president in the near future; possibly encouraged by the warm embrace he has received from Republicans and others who disagree with President Obama's path to reform patient care in this country.

[Note: Last year, Carson shared his views with Physicians Practice on healthcare reform and the role of private practice physicians (http://bit.ly/Carson-on-ACA) - perhaps we spurred his political aspirations?]

This got me to thinking about the possibility of electing a physician as our next president. To date, no medical doctor has occupied the Oval Office. Yes, others have tried in the past (most recently Howard Dean in 2004 and Ron Paul - three times: 1988, 2008, and 2012), but failed. There are currently 20 physician lawmakers elected to Congress, so there are plenty of candidates already entrenched in Washington poised to seek higher office.

So let's review some of the requirements for occupying the Oval Office and how a physician might fare:

Years of education and training: Done.

Kissing babies and shaking hands: Pediatricians, you are way ahead of the game here.Long hours and little time with family: Not a problem.

Often stressful interaction with colleagues: Been there, done that.

Trying to negotiate change with the other side of the aisle: You've all tried to get a stubborn patient to comply with a treatment plan. Check.

Knowledge of federal policy, bureaucracies, and government acronyms: Oh yes.

Able to motivate and inspire: Of course.

Being mocked frequently, but taking it in stride: We've talked to your staff. We know you can handle it.

Tough, probing questions in one-on-one and group settings: You deal with patients' friends and family members every day, so you've got this one covered.

We've given the attorneys plenty of opportunity (25 of 44 presidents earned their legal degrees); those with military experience have also been elected as commander in chief; and we even put an actor in charge for eight years.

Perhaps it is time for physicians - the unsung leaders of their communities, who have a keen eye for detail, an ear for what is really ailing us, a forward-thinking mind to diagnose the most difficult issues, and an overall quest for well-being - to take a shot at leading our nation.

2016 is right around the corner.

Keith L. Martin is managing editor of Physicians Practice. Tell him what you think at keith.martin@ubm.com. Unless you say otherwise, we'll assume that we're free to publish your comments in upcoming issues of Physicians Practice, in print and online. Have a "Bigger Picture" opinion of your own? Send it along via e-mail and we'll consider it for a future issue.

This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Physicians Practice.