Doctors Turned Politicians Still Love Working Clinically

On March 6th, 2013, the day of the SNOWQUESTER, three very brave emergency physicians decided to take on the elements (which turned out to not be quite so elemental as the weather forecasters had predicted) and travel to the Capitol for the 12th Annual George Washington University Emergency Medicine Capitol Hill Day.

I was invited as an alum of the GW residency. And, through the incredible generosity of Dr. Janice Blanchard, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Chief of Policy, at GW, I was invited to bring some colleagues. And so, I was joined by Drs. Angelo Falcone and Suzanna Martin.

The day featured an All Star lineup. we were educated by Dr. Nicole Lurie, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response; US Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz, US Representative from California; Dr Peter Sokolove, a giant among the emergency medicine gurus, and an expert in health policy; and finally, Senator Dr. John Barrasso, US Senator from Wyoming.

Through a series of anecdotes and life histories, these leaders all delivered a very similar message. This message was on the importance of advocacy, the importance of supporting people who cannot successfully advocate for themselves, and for advancing ideas that are sound. All of our speakers came from very different backgrounds and experiences.

Congressman (and accomplished ER doctor) Ruiz, for example, is the son of impoverished immigrants who went door-to-door in his neighborhood asking people to invest in their community by investing in him. He eventually raised $2,000 to help pay for College. Ruiz went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude from UCLA and earn three advanced degrees from Harvard before becoming an ER doc.

Like Dr. Ruiz, the common thread among these leaders was a story of perseverance and intellectual curiosity. These physicians all saw an opportunity and a challenge, and acted upon it. The result? Very successful careers which are transforming the health of entire communities.

Perhaps a surprise to me, but a very wonderful surprise, is the joy these leaders still get from working clinically, which was on clear display as we toured the GW hospital. With enthusiasm and obvious delight, the doctors all spoke vividly about the satisfaction and reward of caring for the individual patient. Maybe this is what keeps them grounded in the mission of healthcare reform—returning emotionally to the impact each one of us makes each and every day with every patient encounter we have.

It is through the work of such dedicated people that we have the opportunity to continue to practice medicine as we do. Hats off!