Healthcare Professionals & Politics

Post written by Sumit Patel, M.D.

I dedicate this post to all the men, women, and children who showed the world that Donald Trump is a man, and that he does not speak for us all. I dedicate this to all those who participated in the Women’s March, all over the world. I dedicate this to the leaders at FemInEm, PolicyRX, at my own University of Maryland Department of Emergency Medicine, and others, for inspiring me in my own career to engage.

Over the past few years, I’ve had a great experiencing exploring social media as a physician trainee and medical student. Before starting my Twitter account, I had sworn off all forms of social media. I mostly wrote and journaled privately. However, using social media as a medical professional has been a vital source of inspiration & collaboration with people all over the world. Twitter as well as other online outlets have become go to places for me to engage in discussion & learn about current events. For those of us who work ridiculous schedules & hours, online communities work well for getting and sharing information. In a very basic sense, having a platform to let the world know how I feel has also been quite cathartic.

However, in the past year, especially in the current state of affairs in the United States & around the world, I have become much more vocal about my views on politics and healthcare policy. I have been scorned by medical professionals who keep their online social media and other presences apolitical and purely clinical in nature. I don’t dispute that this is a good idea for many. After all, as with anything in life, we all have our reasons.

What irks me, though, is judgment cast against those of us who DO share our opinions on current events & who DO take stances on various issues. If you don’t agree with me on this, there’s a simple solution – unfollow me, and move on. Don’t judge me though. Don’t think you’re somehow better. And, most definitely don’t think you’re right and I’m wrong.

Being a physician required me to take the Hippocratic Oath. Medical professionals dedicate themselves to caring for their fellow human beings. Yes, the majority of how I help the world occurs during my shifts in an Emergency Department, where I remain 100% apolitical and without judgment. I treat each and every single patient with the same compassion and work ethic as if they were my own family.

I give medical advice and provide treatment and support to the very best of my ability, regardless of who you are, where you come from, or what your beliefs are. In fact, I have myself been judged by patients and other medical professionals. I have had racial slurs hurled in my direction when I made a clinical decision that patients did not agree with. I’ve been called a “sand nigg**” because I didn’t want to give my intoxicated patient opiates for his muscle ache. It wasn’t medically indicated and I told him so. Despite his slurs toward me, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and had to do breathing exercises the entire 10 minutes he stood by me, with nurses, doctors, staff, and other patients right there, as he insulted me, to remain under control.

I know I have a duty to care for my fellow men and women without casting any judgment on them or their choices. This is NOT the same as keeping your social media presence apolitical or purely clinical. I believe, in my heart, that it is my responsibility to use my education and my passion to create positive change for all, and to that goal, I use my social media presence to advocate on issues I think are important.

I have posted about:

  1. Donald Trump & his presidential “campaign”

  2. Abortion

  3. Planned Parenthood

  4. The Affordable Care Act

  5. Women’s Equality

  6. Mental Health Issues for healthcare professionals

  7. Health policy

  8. LGBTQ Rights & Disparities

In many instances I took a stance and tried to articulate my beliefs & reasoning.

What I hope is that we can create discourse and discussion that leads to positive change. You can’t achieve anything unless you’re at the table. And I believe, truly, that most medical professionals are not at the table.

Many of us are simply too burnt out or exhausted to even participate. People have this notion that a doctor simply exists to try and diagnose conditions and write prescriptions. But that’s not even the half of it. There’s so much more to our work, and this applies to all types of medical professionals – RNs, NPs, PAs, techs, prehospital professionals, all types of therapists, and the list goes on and on. Yes we are expected to deliver clinical care but I didn’t sign up to simply be a cog in the medical industrial machine.

I signed up to create change.

Change requires dialogue, and for that to happen, you’ve got to share your voice.

I can’t force you to use your social media presence to engage in political discussion. I can’t force you to tell me what you think about the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act or why anti-vaccination is dangerous for us all, but I want you to stop judging me and my colleagues who are willing to sit at the table.

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