December 1999 Bulletin

Orthopaedist tells how to shape politics

The advice from an orthopaedic surgeon who spent a year working in the White House is "get involved."

"When you see legislation that doesn't go your way; when you feel besieged by legislation, get involved and make an impact," says Stephen P. England, MD, a pediatric orthopaedist whose tour as a White House fellow ended in September. The fellowship gave him a front row seat on how government works and why some groups get heard and others don't. Those that get heard are organized, they vote and they're vocal, says Dr. England.

He believes orthopaedic surgeons "are almost over-qualified for politics. They're over-educated, industrious and bright. Orthopaedic surgeons can make a difference in government by getting active in the process on any level-federal, state and local."

As special assistant to Richard W. Riley, Secretary, Department of Education, Dr. England worked on a Safe and Drug-Free Schools program, and worked with the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services on a number of issues including a program to expand insurance coverage for school children.

Surrounded by lawyers, Dr. England gave a physician's perspective to the programs. His background in public health added another dimension to his input to the programs.

"It's important to get involved and not just when it comes to health care finances," says Dr. England. "We should be involved as private citizens and act as a collective group. The lawyers do and they run Washington."

Dr. England is back in practice at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, in St. Paul, but he admits that his experience has given him a desire to remain involved in public service as an elected official or appointee.

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