Ophthalmologists active in politics
While no ophthalmologist was elected in the May 2022 French presidential elections, over the years and across the world, there have been instances of eye doctors who have made it to the highest ranks of power.
Eye doctors who became presidents
Quite a few doctors have already assumed the role of head of state, but only two ophthalmologists have attained this level of power.
Born in Malta at the beginning of the twentieth century, Dr Vincent Tabone has remained famous for his work on trachoma – on which he was appointed adviser at the WHO (World Health Organization) – but equally for his political career. President of the Medical Association of Malta at the time of the island’s independence in 1961, he then launched a political career aged 53. Elected deputy, he was a minister several times before becoming President of the Republic in 1989.
More embarrassing for the global ophthalmology community, Bashar al-Assad is the second eye doctor to have obtained power in Syria.
Ophthalmologists elected around the world
Although only two ophthalmologists have acceded to the highest office, others have been elected across the globe. Some examples are Rand Paul, senator for Kentucky who almost became the US Republican Party candidate in 2015 and Dr José Rizal, national hero of the Philippines who was shot by the Spanish in 1896. Rizal played an important role in the first large-scale independence movement of the archipelago.
More recently, other eye health specialists have occupied prestigious positions in politics, such as Dr Dominique Orliac, the first female ophthalmologist to take a seat in the French National Assembly; Dr Sviatoslav Fiodorov, who became a deputy in the Russian State Duma in 1993 and is one of the founders of refractive eye surgery; and Dr Cécile Kyenge. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1964, Kyenge was later naturalized in Italy and went on to become the country’s first black minister in 2013.
France has made several notable contributions. The country’s most famous ophthalmologist politician is surely Jean-Paul Marat, the founder of the periodical L'Ami du Peuple and member of the French parliament on the side of the radicals.