DAN W. BLUMHAGEN, M.D.
The social perception of the physician has changed during the past century. This is reflected in the changing use of a symbol of the profession, the white coat. This dress originated in operating rooms, scientific laboratories, and modern hospitals, each of which contributed to the social understanding of what it means to be a healer. Adding the cultural significance of "whiteness" reveals a broad spectrum of meaning surrounding the healing encounter, whose most important aspects are the authority and supernatural powers of scientific physicians and the protection of patients. A major force aiding in the adoption of this symbol was the shift in sick care from home to hospital, where it served to legitimate otherwise socially taboo behavior. Recent changes in how scientific medicine is publicly viewed have eroded these established meanings. The resulting tensions affect individual patient-physician encounters and interactions between the profession and society as a whole.
Learn more about subscription options.
Register Now for a free account.
BLUMHAGEN DW. The Doctor's White Coat: The Image of the Physician in Modern America. Ann Intern Med. 1979;91:111-116. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-91-1-111
Download citation file:
Published: Ann Intern Med. 1979;91(1):111-116.
Results provided by:
Copyright © 2017 American College of Physicians. All Rights Reserved.
Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
Conditions of Use
This PDF is available to Subscribers Only