Plank By Plank, Scholars Build Party Platforms

by David Stolzar

Excerpts from article in The Harvard Crimson, November 8, 1999

Be sure to pay attention to what your professor says in class. Next week you could be hearing the same words out of the mouths of Bill Bradley, Al Gore '69 or George W. Bush. While the upcoming presidential election is nearly a year away, campaigning for 2000 has begun in earnest, and already professors from the College and Harvard's graduate schools have begun to assemble behind their candidates.

Whether this is their first association with a campaign, or simply another step in a distinguished political career, these Faculty members have a hand in shaping election issues from crime to education to healthcare.

Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Harold J. Bursztajn says that his contact with physicians around the country has allowed him to play a large role in forming Bradley's health care ideas.

"I was part of both the brain trust and the sounding board, working with others in my profession," Bursztajn says. "[Bradley] has reinvigorated health care as an issue."

"He recognizes that the lack of choice for patients causes both the quality of care and the doctor-patient relationship to suffer," Bursztajn adds.

Bursztajn admits, however, that his influence over what issues are being discussed is limited. For example, Bursztajn has expressed his concern over the reduction of federal funding for teaching hospitals such as the ones run by the Harvard Medical School.

"It's certainly something I've talked to [Bradley] and his campaign about," Bursztajn says. "I still think that he'll raise the issue at some point."

Bursztajn, for example, co-directs the Program in Psychiatry and Law at the Harvard Medical School but has never advised a campaign before. A Princeton graduate, Bursztajn says he has long admired Bill Bradley, and was eager to join the campaign once asked.

"There are two reasons I went to Princeton--Albert Einstein and Bill Bradley," Bursztajn says. "I have always admired [Bradley's] love for the history of ideas...He's an individual with a mind of his own."

According to Bursztajn, his connections as an HMS professor has helped him to gain a perspectives on the issues that range far beyond the local medical community.

"Over the year, I talk to and teach more than 1,000 doctors from all over the country, so I'm able to look past regional concerns," Bursztajn says. "Harvard also offers a real trans-disciplinary opportunity....I get to speak to friends at the business school, the law school, and the medical school on issues."

As an HMS graduate, Bursztajn says he has also been able to keep in contact with an alumni network that has served as a testing ground for campaign ideas."