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Hospitalist; Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine Hennepin County Medical Center
State Senator, Minnesota State Senate, St. Paul, MinnesotaVIEW PROFILE
For the last year Matthew Klein, M.D. (MED ’93), has been a senator in the Minnesota Legislature by day and hospitalist by night. When he’d been in office for only a couple of months, most of his medical colleagues were in the dark about his dual identify. When Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton fainted in January 2017 during his televised State of the State address, Dr. Klein (DFL, District 52), seated near the front, ran to catch the falling governor. Dr. Klein’s colleagues at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) suddenly learned one of their own was in the state legislature.
I work three night shifts per week as a hospitalist when the legislature is not in session. When it is in session, I work only one shift a week. HCMC has been very accommodating and supportive.
Before the hospitalist model was created, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.
I was excited about politics as a kid but put it aside for 20 years while I pursued medicine. I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and HCMC for internal medicine residency. I practiced at a 34-bed rural hospital in Maine for two years and then with Dean Health System in Wisconsin for 10 years, where I started a hospitalist program. I’ve been at HCMC for five years.
My wife and I have five children, ages 18, 17, 15, 14 and 13. Three years ago, I was elected to the West St. Paul School Board, which rekindled my love of politics. It was a great introduction to elected office. The last year has been the steepest learning curve of my life.
I’m one of two physicians in the Minnesota State Senate. The two of us are on opposite sides of the aisle ideologically but sit only two seats apart in the senate chamber. We use our relationship as physicians to cut through partisan politics. I think physicians are good at seeing problems and thinking quickly about how to get to commonsense solutions.
Physicians can have very powerful voices in politics. Sometimes an organized voice for medicine is missing from the many voices we hear but would be very welcome. I believe I’m the only Mayo Clinic School of Medicine alum who’s been elected to the Minnesota Legislature. There’s room for more! If you have political skills and ambition, think about running for office.
I’m in awe every day that we have an asset like Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The educators and mentors I had at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine were among the finest doctors I’ve ever met. Their integrity and devotion to doing the right thing left me with an aspiration for excellence. Being around that for four years in my early 20s prompted me to work harder, strive better and make sure the work I did was done well.
People generally recognize Mayo as a tremendous state asset — a rare and singular asset. Mayo communicates medical competence and authority.
We’re a strong enough state to ensure health care for our residents. I’m a member of Physicians for a National Health Program — a group of like-minded physicians who want to do the right thing for patients. Many doctors feel moral shame when patients don’t pursue necessary care due to financial reasons. We have a moral obligation to not deprive citizens of health care.
Mayo Clinic alumna Alice Mann, M.D. (FM ’10), also is in the Minnesota legislature — in the House or Representatives.
See past New Chapter stories here.