June 1991

Who Is Responsible for Progress?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass, and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

Arch Surg. 1991;126(6):677-680. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1991.01410300019001

My subject is an endangered responsibility. A responsibility that is widely distributed, basic to society, and threatened by lack of attention. This responsibility is that of maintaining progress; a thread that in the best of societies runs without interruption through all professions. In medicine, this thread of learning and teaching was first set down by Hippocrates: "to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all other learning." However, learning (and, therefore, progress) does not come automatically, like death or taxes. It must be carefully cultivated and requires a considerable portion of available resources.

In this increasingly modern world, the rate of progress largely depends on the will and ability of society to focus resources on current problems. What is society's effect on medicine and its progress today? Who is responsible for ensuring that the net vector of these forces points in the direction of continued advancement? These questions

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