Monday, May 11, 2009

The economics of medical education

Reading through the Report of the Association for the Advancement of the Medical Education of Women, with addresses delivered at Union League Hall, Tuesday, March 26th, 1878 (New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1878) we find this well-reasoned and passionate argument for public support of medical education, from Mary Putnam Jacobi (who, of course, was making the assertion because public medical education wasn't being provided equally to women as to men, but the argumentation is still striking in this era of diminishing state support)
...[T]he practice of medicine cannot be considered a lucrative profession, if the pecuniary returns are estimated by a comparison with the pecuniary outlay of a medical education. The expense of living during the years of study must increase with every increase in thoroughness, and duration of the term of study, and this must be met by the student, even when the cost to the student, of instruction has been reduced to a minimum. The real cost of instruction, however, cannot be reduced except by diminishing its real value; for its main expense is that required for the brains of its teachers. At the present day the market value of intellect is such that the highest instruction cannot be obtained except at at an expense far above private resources. This expense must be, and is always borne by the state or the public. If society does not choose to assume this expense, the instruction falls at once below the level to which it has risen in other parts of the civilized world. ...

Physicians are not private tradesmen but public officers; for the most mediocre success in their work is required an intellectual capital for which all the intellectual resources in the world must be laid under contribution; and it is to the interests of society, even more than of the physicians, to see that such capital is acquired.
You can certainly see in this excerpt why Mary Putnam's entrance into the medical profession was seen as a great loss for literature.

And a special, unrelated, bonus: Where in the world is Dr. Charles Grossman?

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