A dentist and Republican delegate from...


January 31, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

C. RONALD FRANKS, a dentist and Republican delegate from Queen Anne's County, announced his candidacy for higher office last week this way:

"There are 56 lawyers and not one health care provider in the U.S. Senate!" Del. Franks, D.D.S., wants to take on Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Esquire.

Want to know how many health care providers there have ever been in the U.S. Senate? No? Tough. I'm going to tell you anyway.

There have been 45 physicians in the Senate (I am indebted to Dick Baker, Don Ritchie and Jo Quatannens of the Senate Historical Office for this), two dentists, a veterinarian and a pharmacist.

The veterinarian was John Melcher, D-Mont. He served two terms, 1977-1989, and is best known to politics buffs for his talking cows campaign commercials. Cows conversed about what a great Montanan Melcher was. They got him re-elected in 1982, but he lost despite them in 1988. He may run again this year, though with or without the cows I haven't heard.

The pharmacist was Hubert Humphrey, D-Minn., a senator before and after his vice presidency, 1965-1969, and a three-time candidate for the presidential nomination. He was a registered pharmacist and ran his family drug store for awhile.

Several of the physicians on the Senate's official list never actually provided health care. They were in HMOs. No! No! Just kidding! HMOs are great!

I have in mind people like Sen. Ernest Gruening, D-Alaska. He was a personal favorite of us liberals in the Senate press gallery in the 1960s (not to mention Bill Clinton). That's because he was the first senator to speak out against the war in Vietnam. He called it "a putrid mess" in a speech in March of 1964 and prophesied that if the U.S. didn't get out it would be sorry. Gruening graduated from Harvard Med School, but became a newspaper reporter. Sounds like a nutty career move, but he had a rewarding life as a writer, editor, governor and senator.

Among other career changes made by med school grads were lawyer and farmer. Then there was William Henry Harrison, who gave up medicine for the army, became a general, a senator and eventually president of the United States. He delivered an hour-and-40-minute inaugural in the cold without a scarf, got pneumonia and died, having been denied treatment because his regional health alliance was over budget. (Just kidding again.)

I'd count Sen. Barbara Mikulski a health care provider. She used to be a social worker whose assignments involved her in the health problems of the elderly and of drug addicts.

Four Maryland senators were ex-medicine men. The most recent's great political claim to fame is that he challenged a sitting president seeking renomination and did better and worse -- simultaneously -- than anyone ever before or since in such a contest.

Thursday: Sen. Joseph France, M.D.

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