College of American Pathologists
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Putting pathology on the ballot this election

May 2004
Richard J. Hausner, MD, FCAP

It’s that time of year when CAP members are being asked to contribute to the College’s political action committee, PathPAC. With 2004 an election year and with such issues as medical liability reform at the forefront of debate, PathPAC chair Richard Hausner, MD, answers here some of the questions that have been put to him during the past year. Dr. Hausner practices pathology in Houston and is serving in his second year as chair of PathPAC.

In my opinion, money doesn’t belong in politics. Therefore, why would I give to PathPAC?

Our democracy is a work in progress-still evolving and improving. It’s possible, I suppose, that some day money will not be needed for elections. In the meantime, we have to work with what we have. Many of the good people who agree to run for office are not independently wealthy, and without contributions from supporters they would not be able to publicize their candidacy. Do we really want only the idle rich to be able to serve?

On a hypothetical level, I might find common ground with people who have concerns about money in politics. But it’s hardly a sin to set aside those reservations for a higher goal, which is to ensure that our profession is properly represented in Washington.

How does PathPAC decide which candidates to support?

Ideologically, the PAC is nonpartisan and makes decisions based on what is best for pathology. We do not weigh the candidate’s philosophy on nonpathology related matters. We base our decisions to support a candidate first on the answers to a questionnaire that each candidate must complete. No questionnaire, no support. After that, we look at the historical voting record, the influence of the legislator, as well as other things.

The Board members are shepherds of the PAC-we do not act on our personal feelings for a candidate. We are interested only in a candidate’s position on matters that affect our specialty.

I know that CAP fellows who search for and then find a reason not to make even a small yearly contribution to the PAC benefit from our successes the same as those who do contribute. I don’t know if this is fair or not, but I’m comfortable that participating and contributing to PathPAC is the right decision for just about everyone in the CAP.

Can you give me an instance in which PathPAC has had a direct effect on the outcome of legislation?

PathPAC does not directly affect legislation nor does it make contributions to legislators as a thank you for a favorable vote-both activities are illegal. It provides support to the candidates who have demonstrated an understanding of issues that affect pathologists and are willing to consider our point of view. We look to cultivate long-term relationships with members of Congress and their staffs, respectful of the reality that not everyone will be able to vote our way every time.

I am always being asked to donate to multiple causes, and I already support several. Why should I add PathPAC to that list?

Heaven knows the number of good causes that ask me every year for a personal contribution-I wish I could support many of them to the max. But I have made PathPAC a priority, and I have contributed to it every year of its existence.

It seems that every year more and more of the decisions that affect our practice originate one way or another in Washington, either directly as a Medicare initiative or indirectly as the private sector adopts Medicare methods.

The bottom line is that we CAP fellows have a lot to gain and a whole lot to lose in Washington. It is up to each of us to decide how much we are willing to contribute to help enhance and defend our beloved profession. I want to be sure that the voice of pathology is heard. If we allow something to be taken away, it won’t come back.

If you have comments or questions for Dr. Hausner, send your e-mail to