I came out of the closet this week about my political aspirations. I sent an email to my medical colleagues informing them that I would be stepping down next summer as Chief of the Department of Family Medicine at our hospital in order to have time to prepare a campaign. I will be seeking a nomination with the Liberal Party of Canada with the objective of being a candidate in the next federal election. It was a little difficult to click “send” on those emails. I was exposing my dreams more publicly than ever before. I felt excited, hopeful and nervous all at the same time.
As “coming out of the closet” goes, I understand that the revelation of my political goals was much less shocking and risky than it would be to step out of many other kinds of closets in which people find safety. Nonetheless it has taken some courage (and a small measure of madness perhaps) to formalize this decision that I’ve been considering for several years now.
The reaction from colleagues has been overwhelmingly positive. I received so many kind words and offers of help. A few people have expressed trepidation. A non-medical friend wrote about her initial feelings of surprise: “Why would you put yourself through the travail of politics when you are already such a significant influence in your chosen field at home and abroad? And why would you subject yourself to the abuse and public scrutiny that politicians have to endure in political life?” The same person went on to write a kind letter of encouragement that you can read below. But her questions made me reflect on why I would make such a career decision.
Why would I leave medicine and enter politics? I’ve hinted before that it’s not such a stretch. I became a physician so I could devote myself to helping individuals and their families to have healthy and meaningful lives. Over the years I have observed how greatly the health of individuals and families is affected by the health of the community. As a result, I have become engaged in politics with the goal of helping to build a healthier society.
I hope my friends and colleagues will help me remember that goal. I was at a political meeting a few weeks ago and a long-time politician made the statement: “Let’s remember that our ultimate goal is to win the next election.” That statement disturbed me. I trust the vision of that politician is not simply to win an election. Surely it’s about more than winning elections. It’s about fair representation of one’s community and about building a better country. Tommy Douglas would have said it’s about building “a productive, peaceful and caring society.”
Now that I have spread my dreams for all to see, it’s time to pay attention to the dreams of the people I would like to serve. Step by step we can work to see dreams come true. I am heartened by the words of Henry David Thoreau who wrote “I learned this, at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”