Share this article on:


From the Archive

The Joint Committee on Medical Education in Time of National Emergency. “Medical Education in Time of National Emergency.” Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 1950; 25(6 suppl):3–12.

The mounting tension of the times confronts medical education with great responsibilities. Only physicians trained as highly as the state of medical knowledge and available resources will permit can serve the national interest well, whether this be in a military or in a civilian capacity. In full recognition of the need of both the armed forces and the civilian population for good medical care, as many well trained physicians as possible should be produced. To accomplish this aim in time of emergency, the following proposals are offered by THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON MEDICAL EDUCATION IN TIME OF NATIONAL EMERGENCY, which represents the Executive Council of the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Council on Medical Education and Hospitals of the American Medical Association. These proposals have been formulated in order to profit from the experience of World War II, to avoid a repetition of the mistakes made then, and to attempt to prevent the occurrence of new errors.

The duration of the emergency on which we have entered, and of the policy of limited mobilization are at this time quite unknown. The longer or more serious the emergency, the greater will be the demand for physicians—for well trained physicians. One of the hard lessons learned from the medical training program employed in World War II was that in the national interest demands for speed and quantity should never be permitted to interfere with quality.

It is, consequently, especially important that no steps be taken at the beginning of the present emergency that will interfere with the adequate training of physicians either as medical students or as interns and residents, or with the supply of properly trained basic scientists. If, as now appears probable, the emergency bids fair to be prolonged over many years, we must exercise great care that, in instituting measures necessary to meet the pressing and immediate demands of the emergency, we do not interfere with the continuous training of physicians. Such training requires an uninterrupted supply of students through college into and through medical school and hospitals; it requires a smaller but vitally important supply of graduate students in the basic and clinical sciences; and it requires, also, the maintenance of an adequate basic science, as well as clinical faculty. It requires continuation of the principles of individual student participation and instruction which are basic to good medical education and which would be vitiated by acceleration, overcrowding of students or loss of faculty to the point where attention to the individual student would be diminished…

… In time of emergency, just as in time of peace, an important phase of national security—the maintenance of health—demands highly trained physicians in sufficient numbers. The objective of the present proposals is the maintenance of this supply of physicians. These proposals reflect the critical and intensive thinking of medical educators who since World War II have been studying this problem so as to benefit from the experience and mistakes of World War II. They have been developed after full opportunity to obtain the suggestions of representatives of the government agencies concerned. These experiences, and consequently these proposals, emphasize the fundamental truth that in medicine there can be no substitute for adequate training. It is urged, therefore, that in the best interest of the nation this principle be recognized fully in all plans for medical education that may be adopted in the present or future emergencies.

© 2002 Association of American Medical Colleges