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Author Notes:

Author correspondence: Dr. Melvin Konner, 1064 Cliston Road, Atlanta, GA 30307. Email: antmk@anthro.emory.edu.


What will become of the doctor?


Journal Title:

Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine


Volume 69, Number 5


, Pages 469-476

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


I interpret the field called Medical Humanities broadly. I fail to see very clear distinctions among medical humanities, medical ethics and medical policy. This idiosyncrasy leads me to try to confuse you about the distinctions; I would prefer to see them systematically blurred. Unfortunately what is new in American medicine today is not primarily in the realm of diagnosis or treatment, but in the realm of social and economic organization, and it has not been discovered or invented by doctors. Corporate forces are taking over American medicine -indeed the process is mostly complete and may be irreversible and many physicians, feeling harassed and vulnerable, are advising the young not to enter medicine. Academic medicine, in particular, is under siege, as the tacit agreement between medical science and the society that supported it, mostly in implicit rather than explicit ways, breaks down. Yet applications to medical school are at or near their all-time high [1]. In my office at Emory College I see a steady stream of fresh-faced young people who want nothing more than to do medicine some day. This year alone they range from young woman with a 4.0 grade-average who also performs piano concerts, to a young man who must struggle every day to keep up in biochemistry, and who may never make it to medical school.I ask these students, "Don't you read newspapers?" They answer with some version of, "Sure, but I want to be a doctor." They continue to sacrifice other career options, fun, relationships and (of course) sleep to position themselves as future scientific healers, which they evidently still consider life's most rewarding professional role. Do our students have hopes that can no longer be met, or will medicine still be the noblest profession well into the twenty-first century?

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© 1997 Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.

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