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November 6, 1996

Medicine and Public Health: Pursuing a Common Destiny

Author Affiliations

From the Program on Humanities and Technology in Health Care, University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center, and the Medicine/Public Health Initiative, Houston.

JAMA. 1996;276(17):1429-1430. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540170073036

MEDICINE and public health in the United States are drawing together to work for the good of health and health care through a new movement: the Medicine/Public Health Initiative. The irony of the split and the importance of the bonding come home in the comment a longtime member of the American Medical Association (AMA) made in a conversation with me on informing the general public about the Initiative: "You know," he said, "what will surprise the public is not the news that we are coming together, but the fact that for so long we have been working apart."

This separation was not the way of practice envisioned by the founders of Western medicine—Hippocrates and his disciples. "Airs, Waters, Places," one of the most important treatises in the Hippocratic corpus, begins:

Whoever wishes to pursue properly the science of medicine must proceed thus: First he ought to consider what effects each