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The Vietnam War and Medical Research: Untold Legacy of the U.S. Doctor Draft and the NIH Yellow Berets

Khot, Sandeep MD, MPH; Park, Buhm Soon PhD; Longstreth, W.T. Jr MD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31820f1ed7
History of Academic Medicine

Purpose: From the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 through the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, many American physicians were inducted into military service through the Doctor Draft. Some fulfilled their obligations by conducting clinical research in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Associate Training Program (ATP) and later labeled themselves “Yellow Berets.” The authors examined the history of the ATP and its influence on NIH associates' future careers.

Method: Via interviews with former associates and archival research, the authors explored the training and collaboration in the ATP during 1953–1973. Using databases, they compared later academic positions of associates with those of nonassociate peers who also entered academia and identified associates with prestigious awards or honorary society memberships.

Results: The physician–scientists trained in the selective ATP were highly qualified individuals who received training and networking opportunities not available to others. They were approximately 1.5 times as likely as nonassociates to become a full professor, twice as likely to become chair of a department, and three times as likely to become a dean. Associates were also more likely to hold positions at top-ranked medical schools, to fill leadership roles in the NIH, and to win prestigious awards and honorary society memberships.

Conclusions: The cadre of physician–scientists trained in the ATP during the Doctor Draft rose through the academic ranks to leadership roles and continued their productive scientific collaborations. Their legacy continues to have implications for medical research today, particularly for training programs in clinical research.

Dr. Khot is assistant professor, Department of Neurology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.

Dr. Park is associate professor and director, Graduate Program of Science and Technology Policy, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejeon, Korea, and former associate historian, Office of NIH History, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Longstreth is professor, Department of Neurology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Khot, Department of Neurology, Harborview Medical Center, 325 Ninth Avenue, Box 359775, Seattle, WA 98104-2420; telephone: (206) 744-3251; fax: (206) 744-8787; e-mail: skhot@uw.edu.

First published online February 21, 2011

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at http://links.lww.com/ACADMED/A43.

© 2011 Association of American Medical Colleges