To what extent do doctors’ political beliefs, identities, and ideologies influence their professional decisions in the medical exam room? How do these political views shape what doctors do in their role as citizens, including their political participation on contested issues, such as abortion, gun control, and Obamacare? We invite papers for a conference at Tufts University in fall 2017 to explore the political beliefs and civic engagement of physicians in an era of partisan polarization. The Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law will accept five to seven papers from the conference to run in a special issue after undergoing peer review.
Physicians have substantial autonomy in treating patients according to their best judgment. To be sure, doctors must uphold standards of professional conduct. They are also subject to the incentives and constraints of insurance plans, payment systems, and malpractice rules. Yet the role of a physician is defined loosely enough that doctors can bring to their work predispositions about how their jobs ought to be done. These predispositions can come from many sources, including medical school training, prior experiences, peer effects, individual personality and—the subject of this call for papers—politics.
A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (Hersh and Goldenberg 2016) demonstrates that physicians allow their political worldviews to influence their professional decisions on certain politically salient issues. For example, doctors who identify with the Democratic Party are more likely to urge patients against storing firearms in the home, while Republican physicians are more likely to counsel patients on the mental health risks of abortion and to urge patients to cut down on marijuana use. Yet many questions remain unanswered: How important and far-reaching is the influence of physicians’ political beliefs? What factors shape the emergence and development of these beliefs? Does the influence of physicians’ political beliefs on their professional behavior benefit or harm patients? Does it significantly affect variation in medical spending and health outcomes? In addition to these questions about how physicians’ political views affect medical practice, there are a range of questions about how physicians engage in politics, such as the level and variety of political activism among physicians and their professional associations.
Possible Paper Topics and Target Audience
We seek to cast a broad net and are open to studies by political scientists, economists, sociologists, health services researchers, and others. Papers could examine how doctors form their political ideologies and identities, whether there are significant differences in beliefs or belief formation across variables such as gender, age, region, training, residency, practice type, or medical specialization, as well as the implications for health outcomes. We are also interested in papers that examine the political participation of doctors in areas including but not limited to voting, testifying, letter writing, participation in agency rulemaking, contributing money to candidates or PACs, bundling donations, running for office, making public speeches and media appearances, and formal or informal lobbying. We are primarily interested in the political views and behavior of U.S. physicians, but papers that offer a comparative perspective are welcome.
The target audiences for these papers include academic researchers; health policy makers at the local, state, and federal levels; and health legal practitioners. Papers should be written so as to be accessible to all of these audiences.
Interested authors should submit a 1-3 page proposal by March 3, 2017 by email to Jennifer Costanza, Managing Editor of JHPPL, at jhppl[at]brown[dot]edu. Please put “Physicians and Politics Submission” in the subject line of the message. JHPPL will respond to the proposals by April 21, 2017. Accepted authors will present completed papers at the conference in October/November 2017, at Tufts University in Boston. The papers will then undergo peer review for a special issue of the journal.