Context The legislative and fiscal influences of Congress, as well as the continuing
overall growth in health care spending as a portion of the gross domestic
product, make congressional representation by physicians important because
physicians have unique expertise in the impact of legislation on patient care
and medical practice.
Objectives To describe physician representation in the US Congress between 1960
and 2004 and relate the results to past representation of physicians in Congress.
Design and Setting A retrospective observational study of members of the US Congress from
all 50 states and all represented territories, who served from January 1960
to April 2004 (including 108th Congress), using data available in public access
databases and congressional biographical records.
Main Outcome Measures Physician representation in Congress, including occupation before taking
office, state/territory of representation, sex, party affiliation, and time
Results During the past 44 years, 25 (1.1%) of 2196 members of Congress were
physicians. Physicians in Congress were more likely to be members of the Republican
Party (60% vs 45.1% of all members, P = .007)
and were similar to other members of Congress in mean years of service (9.2
years for physicians vs 12.3 years for all members, P = .09)
and in sex distribution (4.0% female physicians vs 6.8% all female members, P = .57). Physicians in Congress represented
17 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
Conclusions Physician representation in Congress is low and is in stark contrast
with physician roles during the first century of the United States. However,
the 8 physicians currently serving in Congress may be indicative of a shift
toward more direct influence of physicians in national politics.