- Fighting for Business: The Limits of Professional Cooperation among American Doctors during the First World War
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 70, Number 2, April 2015
- pp. 165-194
- View Citation
- Additional Information
The American medical profession participated extensively in preparedness and mobilization for the First World War, with more than one in five doctors voluntarily enlisting in various branches of the Army and Navy Medical Corps. Medical officers were widely valorized for suspending their civilian careers and for sacrificing their professional income while in service. Because of the meager commissions that medical officers received by comparison with fees many doctors earned in established private medical practices, scores of county medical societies implemented organizational solutions to this business problem, with the hopes of removing a significant disincentive to enlistment. In these “practice protection plans,” a civilian doctor promised to take care of the patients of a military doctor, to forward a portion of the fees collected thereby to the family of the military doctor, and to refer these patients to the military doctor upon his return. Despite initial enthusiasm and promotion, these plans ultimately failed to achieve their objectives, leading some medical officers to accuse civilian doctors of being opportunistic, unpatriotic “slackers.” This episode reveals the limits of professional cooperation in American medicine at the time and the need to explain organizational failures in the grand narrative of professionalization during the “Golden Age” of American medicine.