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Politics and health: an emerging technology. The 1984 Harvey Cushing oration.

  • Rosenzweig, R M
Published Article
Journal of neurosurgery
Publication Date
Oct 01, 1984
PMID: 6470772


A political scientist examines the worlds of advanced medicine and the modern research university. Both elements are affected by the growth in the role of government. Central government had sharply limited powers early in this century, but by the middle third their powers were enlarged, particularly in the spheres of the economy and social welfare. The last third of the century will reveal what the governed want of the government. The scientific and technological aspects of World War II plunged the universities into the limelight as the main producers of vital knowledge and as objects of national policy. This power of knowledge expanded from national security to public health and welfare. Governmental patronage fostered basic medical research and revolution in biology. With advanced research there marched advanced training. America's leading research universities became stronger and flourished for a few decades, to be confronted suddenly by a shift in government priorities. Governmental fiscal support has dwindled while governmental regulation has increased. The medical profession passed from an early position of opposing the role of government to a position in which it paid inadequate attention to the adverse consequences of the systems that were adopted. Physicians who practice in a variety of settings have a variety of interests which account for the division within the profession. In a political setting it is advantageous and more important to have a clear view of central common interests. The speaker's advice to his colleagues in education is applicable to medicine, to act now in a manner to serve as a model for a vision of a "plausible future." The measure of success in the future depends upon the ability to preserve those values, practices, and habits of mind that account for our value to society. The primacy of scholarly judgments over political judgments is not always easy to achieve in dealings with governments.

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