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November 6, 1996


JAMA. 1996;276(17):1433-1434. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540170077038

A look through the annals of medicine reveals a rich history of physicians and medical students giving of themselves in attempts to better the social condition. Sinclair Lewis' fictional Dr Martin Arrowsmith became a role model for generations of medical students when he was able to translate long, lonely hours in the laboratory into a putative rescue of the plague-stricken island of St Hubert.1 Medical sociologist Renee Fox described the "new" medical student of the 1970s as "actively committed to such humane and social goals as peace, the furtherance of civil rights, the reduction of poverty, the protection of the environment, population control, and improvement in the 'quality of life' for all."2 Just last year, Pulse devoted an entire issue to the phenomenon of student-run medical clinics.3

What is it that motivates physicians and students, in their