Public Roles for the Medical Profession in the United States: Beyond Theories of Decline and Fall


Rosemary A. Stevens PhD Department of History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, 249 South 36th Street, Logan 303, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304 (


The future role of national medical organizations as a moral voice in health policymaking in the United States deserves attention from both scholarly and strategic perspectives. Arguments for strengthening the public roles of organized professionalism include its long (if neglected) history of public service. Scholarship of the past 40 years has emphasized the decline of a profession imbued with self-interest, together with associated hteories of organizational conflict. Through new concepts and language, a different version of organized medicine from that of the past might be invented for the future—one that draws on multiple medical organizations, encourages more effective cooperation with other health care groups, and builds on traditional professional agendas through adaptation and extension.