This week a physician friend on Twitter was called out after weighing in on the presidential election. “I like you better when you stick to cardiology,” the comment suggested.
It raises the question: Should doctors share their political views?
I love the discussion surrounding public physicians and politics. The issue raises questions about how we see a health provider’s role on a platform like Twitter. Ultimately it forces the question of what we’re doing here.
I can’t tell you what’s right, I can only tell you what I do.
My public presence is currently centered around health, technology and the changing health care space. I like to think that what I curate and create brings value to those who listen. My presence is driven by the core belief that visible thinking creates opportunity.
Consequently, I avoid politics in my dialog. This is my third presidential election year on Twitter (I landed there in 2008). In each election I suspect that I would have impacted the way half of my audience sees me. Right or wrong, political passion can change the way we view others. I also avoid religion. I have defined religious beliefs but they don’t relate to my public work.
This decision is based upon my purpose. I have colleagues working in advocacy and policy, for example, where presidential politics play a huge role. In this case it may be a liability to avoid discussion of the presidential candidates. Similarly, those in medical missionary work may see engagement around a core religious community as central to their work.
If your public presence is fashioned to draw patients, consider how what you share or discuss impacts that purpose.
So the question of whether to weigh in on presidential politics as a public physician should be based on purpose of presence. Why are you public? Does political opinion drive or distract from your strategic mission and the relationship you share with your audience?
Image of suffragettes via Flickr/Library of Congress.