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November 27, 1996

The Doctor-Activist: Physicians Fighting for Social Change

Author Affiliations

Health Volunteers Overseas Washington, DC

JAMA. 1996;276(20):1688-1689. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540200074040

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


This book contains the autobiographies of 10 physicians who have tried to change the world around them. The basic theme is that "doctors care for others." This care may be on a personal therapeutic basis or a larger public health basis, in which physicians use all their energies to change health and living conditions for those around them.

The foreword by Julius Richmond, MD, and the first chapter by the editor are possibly the most enjoyable parts of the book. They find the common threads of the ensuing autobiographies: concern for social problems over the business of medicine, inventiveness in interventions in medical and social problems, courage in the face of criticism, and high energy levels. Activist physicians often incur stress in their personal lives in order to fight seemingly unwinnable battles for a common good. Their lives are often not as clearly directed as those of physicians in clinical