Are doctors shifting to the left?

Yesterday’s New York Times (As Physicians’ Jobs Change, So Do Their Politics) highlights the political shift underway within the physician community. While doctors used to be mainly male small businessmen, who were a natural fit with the Republican Party, they’re now much more likely to be female and employed by larger organizations. According to the Times, that’s making doctors more likely to be out of sync with the GOP, and the article cites examples from around the country. The American Medical Association came out in support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was a surprise to many. State medical societies find themselves increasingly allied with liberal activist groups, and even historically “red meat” issues like malpractice reform aren’t that big a deal for those whose malpractice premiums are paid by their employers.

It seems to me there’s an important facet missing from the article. When I was growing up in the 1970s, being a doctor was viewed as one of the surest ways for an ambitious person to make money. That started to change as the advent of managed care made medicine less lucrative and the explosion of the financial services industry provided opportunities to make a lot more money in investment banking, hedge funds, private equity and venture capital. As I observe my own generation and those somewhat younger than me, it seems that those intent on making a lot of money aren’t as drawn to the physician path.

My father in law, of blessed memory, used to compliment certain physicians by saying, “he’s not a money doctor.” That really boiled it down to the essence.

On the whole, younger doctors –and older ones who are sticking with the profession– seem to have the patients’ interest increasingly at heart. And that’s no bad thing.

May 31, 2011

4 thoughts on “Are doctors shifting to the left?”

  1. Thanks for connecting on LinkedIn David. I hope your thoughts and conclusion here reflect the ‘political’ situation on both sides of the Pond. We are in the throws of changes in commissioning which is highlighting the ‘business’ and motivational dimensions of medicine in England.
    The political landscape that follows (including Health IT) will be quite an interesting geographic spectacle. The art for doctors, nurses and others appears to be recognising the ‘middle’ – forever striking a balance.
    Kind regards,
    Peter Jones

  2. I agree with you when you say physicians are no longer looking to make money. It takes a real calling just to get through medical school. Regardless of what your specialty may be, it’s hard work. Every doctor I work with and know recognizes will not necessarily lead to big bucks.

    I can’t say though whether or not that will change a doctor’s political views.

  3. David, I agree that most young doctors and medical students aren’t in it for the money. Still, I question whether the unquestioning embrace of hospital/other large-corporation employment can be equated to having the patients’ best interests at heart.

    (sorry if this is a duplicate; I got an error on my first attempt to post)

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