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JAMA 100 Years Ago
September 1, 1999

EARLY METHODS OF MEDICAL EDUCATION IN NORTH AMERICA.

Author Affiliations
 

Edited by Jennifer Reiling, Editorial Assistant.

JAMA. 1999;282(9):814C. doi:10.1001/jama.282.9.814

Read before the H. C. Wood Medical Society of the University of Pennsylvania, Jan 12, 1899.

BY FRANCIS R. PACKARD, M. D., DEAN OF THE PHILADELPHIA POLYCLINIC AND COLLEGE FOR GRADUATES IN MEDICINE, ETC. PHILADELPHIA.

Prior to the foundation of medical colleges in North America it was customary for young men desirous of learning "physic," to go abroad and study in the schools of Edinburgh, London, or the Continent, if they had the means; or, if they had not the "wherewithal" they would apprentice themselves for a term of years to some practitioner of repute in the Colonies, and at the expiration of the term of their indenture to him, begin practice on their own account. As there were practically no laws as to who could, or who could not practice medicine, many poorly educated physicians and charlatans arose to feed upon the laity. It has been estimated that at the outset of the War for Independence, there were upward of 3500 practitioners of medicine in the Colonies, of whom not more than 400 had received medical degrees. Dr. Stille,1 quotes from a "List of the Graduates in Medicine in the University of Edinburgh," printed by Mill & Co. in 1807, the fact that between the years 1758 and 1788 the names of sixty-three Americans appear on the list. He also points out that but one of these students came from the New England Colonies, signifying the closer relations in existence between the Middle and Southern States and the mother country.

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