T. Andrew Dodds, MD, MPH
Richard Cabot's (1868-1939) decision to leave full-time medical work in 1920 to teach social ethics illustrates some of the tensions inherent in twentieth-century medicine's transformation from clinical practice to a biomedical science. Cabot, then one of America's best known physicians, practiced medicine in an era in which science redefined medical practice and thinking. Although a champion of medical science, Cabot's primary concerns were clinical and humanistic. He emphasized the importance of ambulatory medicine, advocated group practice, founded hospital social work, did clinical epidemiologic research, lobbied for preventive medicine, created the Clinical-Pathologic Conference, and wrote extensively on medical ethics. In 1912, despite Cabot's great talents, a top professorship at Harvard Medical School was instead given to David Edsall, a clinician with more extensive basic science training. Cabot's efforts to define the physician's, as well as the health care system's, role in human well-being, however, presaged medicine's current attempts to emphasize the social context of the patient.
Dodds TA. Richard Cabot: Medical Reformer during the Progressive Era (1890-1920). Ann Intern Med. ;119:417–422. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-119-5-199309010-00011
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1993;119(5):417-422.
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