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Medicine and Public Policy |

The Troubled Profession: Is Medicine's Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Steven A. Schroeder, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

Requests for Reprints: Steven A. Schroeder, MD, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, P.O. Box 2316, Princeton, NJ 08543-2316.

Current Author Address: Dr. Schroeder: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, P.O. Box 2316, Princeton, NJ 08543-2316.


*Presented as the Alpha Omega Alpha Lectures, Cornell University Medical School, 3 April 1991; University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 19 April 1991; and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, 23 April 1991. For the current author address, see end of text.


© 1992 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1992;116(7):583-592. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-116-7-583
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▪ Abundant evidence that medicine is in trouble includes serious career dissatisfaction among practicing and would-be physicians as well as steeply declining interest in generalist careers, especially internal medicine. Medicine is threatened by ever-rising health care expenditures and ineffectual but vexing administrative efforts to contain them. Additional problems challenge internal medicine in particular: the clinical complexity of practice, lower income potential, and incomplete clinical experiences for medical students.

Yet, in the past 25 years, spectacular advances in science and technology enabled improved patient care and outcomes; more women and minorities entering the profession brought it into better demographic balance; relative physician incomes rose; and access to physician services improved with Medicare and Medicaid and the desegregation of southern hospitals.

Despite an unfinished agenda, never before has medicine held so much promise for improving the health of the public. Despite various professional problems, no other career offers the unique blend of state-of-the-art science and humanism that epitomizes internal medicine—medicine's integrating specialty.

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