Medical schools instill a classic moral standoff in which the responsibility for the betterment of the patient stands at odds with the responsibility for the betterment of society. In critical ways, the latter, in the form of a robust research and technology-driven enterprise, has taken precedence over the former, resulting in harm to patients and individual dignity. This tradeoff can be traced to Abraham Flexner, the father of American medical education. In the wake of the Flexner report, American medicine set out on a course of exponential scientific advancement, but the mistreatment of research subjects and the erosion of the doctor-patient relationship in a health care system that is increasingly unaffordable, complex, and impersonal suggest that such progress has come at a price. Recent efforts by medical schools to emphasize humanism in their curricula and admissions processes have shown promise in orienting the values of academic medicine toward the individual patient's well-being.
Yale J Biol Med. 2014 Mar;87(1):79-89