Like the subject it covers, Physicians in Congress: 1774-2011 is brilliant in its simplicity.
Written by Rene F. Rodriguez, M.D., the book is loaded with biographical details about Americans who have practiced medicine and public-policy making. Although not all of the hundreds of physicians featured in the book were lawmakers, each has contributed to the nation's history and commitment to public health.
Dr. Rodriguez, an orthopedic surgeon and former Army physician, compiled an exhaustive study of the men and women who have served in public office at the federal and state levels. Although the book's title refers exclusively to U.S. senators and representatives, Dr. Rodriguez included U.S. surgeons general and governors in his compilation.
The book offers a fascinating look at medical professionals who elected to pursue public office. The 294-page coffee table-style book, published by the American Medical Association, harkens to the arrival of the first physician in the new colony of Jamestown.
The author, a retired colonel from the U.S. Army Medical Corps., moves quickly toward the Revolutionary War, when trained medical doctors served multifunctional roles as battlefield surgeons and community leaders.
"Even before the founding of the republic, physicians were leaders in American politics," Dr. Rodriguez writes in the introduction. "Although fewer than 4,000 medical doctors lived in the 13 colonies, many played important roles in the rebellion, fought in the Revolutionary War, and were involved in forming the new government."
The book offers a bipartisan study of the roles medical doctors have played in writing and shaping the nation's Constitution and subsequent laws over the past 230-plus years. It includes colorful illustrations and reprints, as well as thumbnail photos and portraits of most of the featured legislators and physicians.
The "Physicians Who Served as Governors" chapter begins with Thomas Burke of North Carolina (1781-1782), progresses through the Civil War era and brings readers current, with former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, Gov. Ernest Fletcher of Kentucky and present Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon.
Dr. Rodriguez, who spent more than five years researching the book, is the founder of the Interamerican College of Physicians and Surgeons.
"It is important for physicians to be part of the political process," Dr. Rodriguez stated in a news release issued by the University of Miami School of Medicine. He also formed the National Hispanic Youth initiative to encourage Hispanic high school seniors and juniors to pursue careers in health, science and biomedical research.
Through no fault of the detail-oriented author, there is a dearth of Hispanic-Americans represented in the book; however, Dr. Rodriguez commends those lawmakers, surgeons general and state executives who devoted their lives to medical and public-policy service.
"We need their voices in Congress, and at every level of government," Dr. Rodriguez states in the University of Miami news release.
Details: Physicians in Congress: 1774-2011; Rene F. Rodriguez, M.D. American Medical Association, 294 pp. (c) Copyright 2011; ISBN: 978-1-60359-608-4.
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