THEY may come from divergent sides of politics but Mal Washer, re-elected long-serving Liberal member in West Australia, and Richard Di Natale, one of the Greens’ new success stories, have at least two things in common — a commitment to improving health policies and a medical degree.

They are just two of a contingent of doctors who contested the recent federal election, many of whom are also concerned about the environment.

Former general practitioner Dr Washer won the relatively safe Liberal seat of Moore to continue serving the electorate he has represented since 1998.

Dr Washer has worked hard to raise awareness and improve the treatment of chronic disease and mental health and, he states on his website, he was behind the Coalition’s election commitment to increase mental health funding.

Dr Washer is also passionate about innovation, the environment and sustainability, and is a strong believer in the need for action on reducing carbon emissions.

Dr Di Natale easily secured a seat in the house of review to become the first Victorian Greens Senator-elect, after an unsuccessful attempt in the 2007 federal election.

Dr Di Natale is a public health specialist who has spent several years working in Indigenous health in the Northern Territory and on HIV prevention in India.

Other Greens candidates included: Dr George Crisp, co-founder of the GreenPractice initiative, who stood for election in Bronwyn Bishop’s electorate of Curtin; Dr Andrew Jeremijenko, an occupational and environmental medicine specialist who contested the relatively safe Labor seat of Lilley held by Wayne Swan; and Dr Geoff Couser, staff emergency specialist, lecturer and textbook author, in the seat of Denison held safely by the Australian Labor Party’s Duncan Kerr.

Doctors representing other parties included leading heart specialist and former president of the Art Gallery Society of NSW, Professor Michael Feneley, for the Liberals in Peter Garrett’s seat of Kingsford Smith.

Although the seat was held by the ALP as predicted, Professor Feneley had stated he wanted to provide a good alternative for people disappointed with the performance of the Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts.

The seat of Lyne, represented by independent Rob Oakeshott, attracted doctor candidates from different sides of the political divide at the recent federal election. Dr David Gillespie, a Port Macquarie gastroenterologist, represented the National Party, while general practitioner Dr Frederick Lips stood for Labor.

Other parties fielding candidates from medicine included Family First, the Democratic Party of Australia, the Christian Democratic Party and Senator Online, which is dedicated to giving Australians a direct voice in Parliament.

This story will be published  in MJA Careers on 20 September 2010.

Posted 6 September 2010

Updated 23 September 2010

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