Exploring Human Potential

What’s the best specialty for a medical student who wants to be a progressive politician?

Posted on | November 13, 2017 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee

If you are a medical student and aspire to be a progressive political leader as well, what might be the best specialty tract to pursue?

You could chose pediatrics as Ralph Northam did, and receive your training in the military, retiring at age 33 as a major and then become a pediatric neurologist at a Children’s Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia and eventually serve as governor of Virginia.

Or you could be an internist and join one of the public health units of NIH at the age of 28, and find yourself at the center of every politically charged public health crisis ever since like Tony Fauci, NIAID director, did.

You might be a surgeon like Susan Love whose advocacy for women’s health included a campaign against routine estrogen use to treat menopause, and who has been advocating for women ever since while serving on the National Cancer Advisory Board and the  National Cancer Institute since 1998.

Or you could chose Family Medicine like Nancy Dickey did, before delivering some 4000 babies, becoming the first female president of the AMA in 1997, and then spending more than a decade as a president of a major university as she did at Texas A&M.

All good…but if you want to be where the action is and have a front row seat to view the impact of policy and leadership gone wrong, Emergency Medicine might be the place to go.

As Neal Flomenbaum, Editor-in-Chief of Emergency Medicine, suggests in this month’s issue, you will certainly gain an education.

Neal catalogues the natural and unnatural disasters that have appeared on Emergency Medicine’s doorsteps in just the past 10 months including:

* 3 Gulf Coast/Atlantic hurricanes and a West Coast fire claiming 285 lives.

* Unnatural shootings and attacks in LasVegas, New York City, and Sutherland Springs, Texas leading to 84 deaths and 558 injuries.

* Nationwide, in just 10 months, 52,719 shooting incidents which left 13,245 dead and 27,111 injured.

Neal quotes the October 9, 2017 Wall Street Journal article by Jeanne Whalen whose title “Training Ground for Military Trauma Experts: U.S. Gun Violence” seems to suggest that doing a stint in a domestic trauma center should be a prerequisite to joining the medical military in Iraq.

There’s little doubt that is you chose this option as a progressive stepping stone, you’ll develop real life skills and gain an unvarished view of what’s wrong. But as Tom Scalea, a trauma surgeon in Baltimore suggests, you’ll need more than that if long-term solutions are your bailiwick.

Tom said, “Mass shooting? That’s every weekend.…it makes me despondent….I don’t have the ability to make that go away. I have the ability to keep as many alive as I can, and we’re pretty good at it.”

Neal is one step ahead of us when he writes, “As for preventing deaths from natural disasters, more accurate weather forecasting and newer technology offer more hope. Among the 134 storm related deaths from Hurricane Irma in September, 14 were heat-related after the storm disabled a transformer supplying power to the air conditioning system of a Hollywood, Florida nursing home.”

So, for you, the medical student, who loves medicine, loves politics, but also loves people more than power, the truth is, there are a number of pathways toward progressive success.

But in making your choice, I’d ask yourself these three questions:

1. Where is my heart leading me right now in the service of others?

2. Am I willing to train and then utilize the skills I have accumulated to not only care and comfort individuals, but also serve and lead our nation in a positive and hopeful direction?

3. As I mature, when I mature, am I confident that my core values will hold? Will I remain strong enough, secure enough, progressive enough to guide our nation and our culture toward durable and permanent solutions? Will I stay true to myself and not succumb to greed, self-loathing and hatred?

If so, if given the chance, I’ll vote for you.


2 Responses to “What’s the best specialty for a medical student who wants to be a progressive politician?”

  1. Dan Ostergaard
    November 14th, 2017 @ 12:57 pm

    Thanks, Mike, for these insightful thoughts about service to our nation as a progressive physician. I especially resonate to the need for medical students to retain their inital idealism and core values as they choose a specialty to be of the most service. I’ll also vote for them.

  2. Mike Magee
    November 14th, 2017 @ 1:44 pm

    Thanks so much, Dan! Your leadership has always set the bar very high and is greatly appreciated by many of us. Best, Mike

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