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December 13, 1965


JAMA. 1965;194(11):1240. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090240074022

Were Robert Louis Stevenson to write his famed classic today, would he have difficulty in deciding whether the doctor is hero or villain? The current confusion of the "doctor image" lends poignant logic to the question.

The ambivalence in public attitudes toward doctors is not entirely new. Between the disdained itinerant physician of ancient Athens and the revered Hippocrates, between the scorned ignoramus of Molière's play and the beloved horse-and-buggy doctor of Victorian vintage, the image of the doctor has fluctuated through the ages. What is new is the scope for sustained image distortion which communication media offer to those with questionable motivations and axes to grind.

Repeatedly confronted by his distorted image, the sensitive physician in danger of succumbing to paranoid delusions would do well to study the report of the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center—"Occupational Prestige in the United States, 1925-1963."1 Based on the ratings