There’s hardly a more educated group of people than physicians, who spend about 14 years in training. Yet they’re some of the least likely Americans to shape the nation’s political future, suggests a new commentary published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Despite the government’s huge influence on health care, doctors vote 9% less than the general population. They’re 22% less likely to cast ballots than lawyers, another group of highly educated professionals.
“If you look back at the history of the medical profession, there’s the sense that physicians are leaders in their community, and people historically looked up to doctors around broad community issues,” says Dr. David Grande, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of the article. But that’s not the case anymore. Their reputation eroded, many experts believe, as they got less time with patients and more and more burned out.
Physicians give all kinds of reasons for why they don’t cast their ballots in what Grande calls “the most basic form of public participation.” Often, they don’t have time, or they’re too consumed by work to worry about the world beyond hospital walls. They also might be less engaged in general than other Americans. Physicians volunteer less often than other highly educated and well-compensated people, Grande writes.
Just as troubling is the possibility that some physicians might not know much more than the rest of us when it comes to the inner workings of healthcare. A recent poll found that 40% of graduating medical students thought they didn’t learn enough about health policy.
Fortunately, doctors are susceptible to the same psychological tricks as the rest of us, even on Election Day. “There are a lot of ways in which our behavior is influenced by the people around us, and campaigns have figured this out,” Grande says. “It makes people more likely to vote if their friends voted.” Medical schools, hospitals and other health care employers should encourage voting by making it more visible and sharing information about early voting.
You, too, can play a part on Election Day if you’re visiting the doctor. Simply slapping on an “I voted” sticker might be the push they need to take off their white coat and vote.
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