Doctors as politicians – Dr Abubakr Al Qirbi- the prominent Aden College alumnus as an example.
Doctors think of themselves as good advocates and they have a tendency to be – or think of themselves- as- a voice of and for the people, although this is , by no means, limited to doctors. You might be surprised to learn that a mere 15-20% who volunteer for Doctors without Frontiers are an actual fact doctors
Usually doctor-politicians tend to start as people’s advocates in medical matters , then they join a political party, possibly get elected to parliament and then hold a political post.
“What, then motivates doctors to get into politics? Serving the community is the goal for many. By training and, in a way, professional culture, doctors tend to be conservative but we do take a sensible and scientific approach to problems and offer new solutions”. ( Ben Fong Hong Kong Med J Vol 13 No 4 # August 2007).
Dr Sun Yat-Sen graduated from Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese (the forerunner of the University of Hong Kong) in 1892. He practiced medicine briefly in Hong Kong during before engaging full time in politics. Dr Sun founded the Republic of China in 1912 after his party successfully overthrew the Qing
Former Malaysian prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohammad studied for his medical degree in Singapore but spent most of his working life as a politician, serving more than 22 years as the leader of Malaysia before retiring in 2003.
The British doctor Leander Jameson was prime Minister of Cape town and played an important part in uniting South Africa.
Among recent examples Dr David Owen was Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary in the British Government under Wilson and his successor and of course there is Dr. Bashar Al Assad, President of Syria(Ophthalmogist) and Iyad Allawi, the Ex-Prime Minister of Iraq (a Neurologist).
However doctors’ can never match the high density of lawyer-politician- not by a long shot.
Remember Obama, Clinton, Lincoln, Jefferson, both Adamses, Monroe, Lincoln, McKinley, Taft, Wilson, FDR, Nixon and the list goes forever. In fact 26 of the 44 Presidents of USA were lawyers ( Carter was of course a peanut farmer and Reagan an actor) It looks that lawyers’ makeup make them more suitable to be politicians (and I do not mean this as a slight against lawyers or politicians for that matter).
The current USA congress has a number of doctor-politician in it including representative Dave Weldon, (an internist), the last Senate majority leader, Bill Frist (heart-lung transplant surgeon), Phil Gingrey (an obstetrician). On the Democratic side there is Howard Dean, the previous chairman of the Democratic National Committee is an internist Representative Jim McDermott, a psychiatrist from Washington.
There are, in fact, 12 medical doctors, 3 dentists, and 3 nurses in Congress
Dr Price, the Georgia state senator was asked how relationships and interactions differ between politics and Medicine
"We tend in medicine to think of our profession and day-to-day life as a collegial experience, by and large," he said, "one where we're helping one another and walking down the hallway of a hospital or offices and pulling a colleague aside, saying, 'This is a difficult case. Can you help me out?' and never having anyone say, 'No, I don't think I can do that.' That experience rarely, if ever, happens in the world of politics, and when it does, it's so unique you've got to question the motives of the individual who's helping you."
Now what about our Alumnus, Abubakr Al Qirbi?
He attended primary and Intermediate schools in Crater then proceeded to Aden College. He then attended Edinburgh University where he got a BSc in Physiology and MB, CHB in Medicine. He later obtained an MRCP and FRCP from the British Royal Colleges and that of Canada where he worked for 5 years
After coming back from Canada, he worked as supervisor of laboratories at the Ministry of Health, Dean of the faculties of Science and of Medicine and Deputy Rector of Sana’a
University and was appointed Minister of Higher Education in the early 90s.
Now how does Dr Al Qirbi view himself- more as a politician or as a doctor? He said:
اجد نفسي أكثر طبيباً، ويضيف هذه المهنة أشعر فيها بذاتي وبالمردود
السريع والمباشر بمجرد أن يخرج المريض من العيادة وقد تفاءل بالشفاء أو أحس به، أشعر أنني قدمت شيئاً ما في هذه المهنة الإنسانية
المناصب السياسية بالنسبة لي استثناء عارض ومهنة الطب والتدريس هي الأصل
In the same vain, does Dr Price, the Georgia Senator miss medicine?
“When I'd get called into the emergency room in the middle of the night, it was awful to get the phone call, to have get up, get dressed and drive to the hospital, but as soon as one enters the emergency room or examining room, all of that goes away and that wonderful relationship the patient and the physician have ideally overshadows everything," he says. "I miss that part terribly.”
Dr Al Qirbi said , when asked how he became a politician ?
ربما الظروف التي جعلتني أدخل في السياسة عبر المؤتمر الشعبي وبالتالي كلفت بهذا العمل والذي تجاوزت فيه السنة السادسة كوزير للخارجية
Four significant things that distinguish Dr Al Qirbi from other doctor-politician I read about are the following:
Firstly, unlike Dr Mahatir Mohamed and Dr Sun Yat-Sin, he only came to politics after spending a lot of time in Medicine and after attaining high qualifications in varios medical fields.
Secondly, he still longs for and misses Medicine. When asked what he would do when he leaves the Ministry of Foreign Affairs he said”
سأعود إلى ممارسة الطب في عملي الإنساني السابق الذي كنت اعتز به”
Thirdly, he is an established physician-scientist. He published many papers including many on the biochemical, physiological urological and obstetric complications of Khat chewing. He pointed out, earlier on, that Khat chewing during pregnancy causes low birth weight and that Khat cause placental insufficiency and that its metabolites appear in breast milk.
Fourthly, his public service started and remained for a long time in the field of science , academia, higher education and medicine before becoming a politician-diplomat par excellance- namelybeing at the top man in foreign policy.