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August 13, 1982

II. Medical Education: The Early Phases

Author Affiliations

From the Morris Fishbein Center, University of Chicago.

JAMA. 1982;248(6):731-734. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330060065039

When the early colonists came from England, the medical men who accompanied them belonged to the lower part of the professional spectrum. They were, for the most part, apothecaries and surgeons, more skilled in practice than in theory. After many decades, however, as life in the colonies became more attractive, better-trained men, often with university education, joined the immigrant ranks.

In addition to those who had had some formal medical training in the mother country, the colonial practitioners included lay persons who had acquired a smattering of knowledge and whose ministrations were sought by those with no other recourse. In isolated communities there might be no other than self-appointed healers, whose good faith and intentions we do not doubt, whatever reservations we may have about their competence. From this latter group, there was a transition to the inevitable quacks and frauds.

Ministers of the gospel often provided medical assistance, especially