The esteemed Dr. Johnson stopped by a couple of days after the midterms, wearing a sly smirk that gave no indication whether he was pleased with the results. So I asked him.
“I would say over 100 million voters going to the polls for a midterm election is a victory for both sides,” he said. “Candidates involved with the medical profession, I might add, did very well.”
Indeed. Among the newly elected Democrats who gave that party control of the U.S. House were Lauren Underwood of Illinois, a registered nurse; Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, a dentist; Dr. Kim Schrier of Washington, a pediatrician; and Donna Shalala, of Miami, who served as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services from 1993 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton.
“I believe a number of Republican physicians were reelected,” noted the doctor.
That group includes Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, who became the first nurse elected to Congress in 1993, family physicians Ralph Abraham of Louisiana and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, surgeons Larry Bucshon of Indiana and Neal Dunn of Panama City, OB/GYNs Michael Burgess of Texas and David Roe of Tennessee, anesthesiologist Andy Harris of Maryland, obstetrician Roger Marshall of Kansas, physician Brad Wenstrup of Ohio and dentists Drew Ferguson of Georgia and Mike Simpson of Idaho.
The U.S. Senate includes three Republican physicians: Orthopedic surgeon John Barrasso of Wyoming, gastroenterologist Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and ophthalmologist Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“The Broward County recount gave us another senator with a medical background,” Dr. Johnson added. “Rick Scott, you may recall, founded Columbia Hospital and was chief executive of Columbia/HCA.
“And don’t forget our own Dr. Chris Constance,” the doctor added. “The board-certified plastic surgeon has been a member of the Charlotte County Commission since 1994.”
The good doctor was quick to point that physicians have played pivotal roles in politics throughout history.
“Five of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were physicians,” he said, “including Pennsylvania doctor Benjamin Rush, a high-ranking surgeon in the Continental Army who eventually became known as the father of American psychiatry.”
“Influential doctors include some controversial figures,” Dr. Johnson said. “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom President Trump has labeled ‘a monster,’ graduated from the medical school at Damascus University and worked as a doctor in the Syrian Army before he attended postgraduate studies at the Western Eye Hospital in London, specializing in ophthalmology.
“Che Guevara, the famous Marxist revolutionary, was also a physician, which many people might not realize,” the doctor added.
A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, Guevara became a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and remains so today.
“Then there’s John Tanton, a retired Michigan ophthalmologist and architect of the anti-immigrant movement,” Dr. Johnson noted. “He is the founder and first chairman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an immigration-reduction organization.”
Dr. Benjamin Spock, the famous pediatrician whose ‘Baby and Child Care’ is one of the best-selling books of all time, was a political activist who protested the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons and fought for causes affecting children.”
In 1972, Dr. Spock ran for president as the People’s Party candidate with a platform that called for free medical care for all; the legalization of abortion, homosexuality, and cannabis; a guaranteed minimum income for families; and an end to American military interventionism.
“Kinda sounds like Bernie Sanders,” noted Dr. Johnson, “but in the face of Richard Nixon’s landside victory, Dr. Spock got 78,000 votes. Nixon received 46.7 million.”
Stating that he had to run, Dr. Johnson left me with two additional names that made me look forward to his next visit: “Wait until you hear about Georges Clemenceau, a physician and journalist who was Prime Minister of France during the World War I, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the physician and novelist who created ... well, I think you may know.”
Comments and suggestions are always welcome. Call Dan Mearns at 941-893-9692 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.