In Tuesday’s midterm elections, Congressman Rand Paul defeated Democrat Jack Conway to become Kentucky’s newest US Senator and the first ophthalmologist win a Senate seat. He is joined by fellow Republican John Boozman of Kansas, who is an optometrist. Several ophthalmologists have run for Congress, but Paul is the first to move from the House of Representatives to the Senate.
Senator-elect Paul was a Tea Party favorite in the Kentucky Senate race, and is the son of noted libertarian Congressman Ron Paul, who ran unsuccessfully for President of the United States in 1988 as the Libertarian Party nominee and again twenty years later competing for the Republican nomination. Rand’s father Ron Paul is also a physician, serving as an Air Force flight surgeon in the 1960s. Both Rand Paul and his father are considered extremely conservative, but Rand Paul is more closely associated with the emergent Tea Party movement.
Rand Paul still owns his private ophthalmology practice in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he has specialized in corneal transplants, LASIK, and glaucoma treatment. Paul is also a member of the Lions Club, a service organization known worldwide for helping needy individuals with optical health, both diagnosis and treatment.
Some controversy emerged in June over Paul’s decision to let his certification from the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) lapse over a dispute with the organization. This means that Paul is not a “board-certified” ophthalmologist as he had claimed, being certified only by the National Board of Ophthalmology, which Paul himself founded in protest against the ABO. Paul is still licensed in Kentucky in good standing, and is still qualified to practice ophthalmology despite lacking board certification.
Despite a viciously negative campaign, Paul won a convincing victory over his rival, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, with 56% of the votes compared to Conway’s 44%.