Dr. Joseph Sirven: The Election

Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 - 8:41am
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Dr. Joseph Sirven
Dr. Joseph Sirven

When it comes to the Presidential elections, doctors need to be undecided, our medical commentator, Dr. Joseph Sirven explains.

Every four years during a physical examination of my patient somewhere between checking for reflexes and listening to the heart, the Presidential election inserts itself right in the middle of my exam room.

“Doctor, I’m miserable right now…these debates are driving me crazy," they'll say. "I’m so stressed out; my husband is stressed out. I just want this to end. Who are you voting for in the elections? You must be voting for Trump; you’re a doctor. All doctors are Republicans, right?”

I say “Sorry, excuse me?”

“Oh, you must be for Sanders, my apologies…I didn’t realize you’re a Democrat.” 

I stop, pause and say, “I’m gonna vote…”

I’m amazed how my patients ask me such personal questions. 

One memorable patient blamed his seizures on President George W. Bush’s win; and then that same patient blamed President Obama’s win for his seizure recurrence. 

I appreciate passion for politics, but not to the extent that it impacts someone’s health, which is why I don’t believe there’s any room for this discussion when caring for a patient.

Even if you ask the question, assuming that all doctors vote a particular way is silly.

Two American Medical Association analyses of physician campaign contributions to federal elections conducted in 2012 and 2014 found that doctors are as politically polarized as their patients. For instance, pediatricians skewed Democrat whereas surgeons trended Republican. Similarly other factors like compensation, ethnicity, gender or whether the doctor is in private practice or works for a clinic or hospital all contribute to a doctor’s political preference.

So when it comes to presidential politics and medicine, the reality is regardless of who you vote for, we’ll treat you the same way…to make you healthier. So the next time you ask me whom I’m voting for, my response will be: whichever candidate makes you feel better.

Dr. Joseph Sirven is the chairman of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic.