JULY 5, 1956
HYDE PARK—I wrote a column not long ago on the doctor shortage in our country and it brought me a thoughtful answer from a doctor which I feel I should pass along to my readers. He says: "It is true there is an acute shortage of interns and residents in training. However, the reason is not that we have too few medical schools but that there are not enough good students who want to be doctors!
"Five years ago there were at least five applicants for every place available in all the medical schools of the country. Today there are only two. The solution is not to expand medical school facilities, because then the quality of doctors would deteriorate, but to create a desire for more bright students to go into a scientific and medical career.
"A large proportion of the applicants are not qualified to be accepted in medical schools and a ratio of five applicants to one accepted would keep the quality up. Now the students are less able than formerly, by and large."
The doctor then goes on to say that one must encourage good brains and brilliant students to take up scientific careers and, if possible, do this by providing enough funds to help them through the long training period. This is the only way, on a democratic basis, to attract the best that can be found into medical careers.
I think it also should be accepted that many young people who want to be doctors and who, under very strict rules, might fail to qualify, can still serve satisfactorily in allied ways, such as in laboratories or along scientific lines which might take them into other fields of research.
Women, particularly, who might not qualify as doctors, might qualify as nurses. And in the nursing field there is a vast area for service, not only in bedside nursing but in management, dietetics and other useful allied fields to which a student who did not qualify for medical school can still turn.
I am not quite sure that I am in agreement with my doctor correspondent in feeling that even if we use the methods he suggests in keeping up the quality, we will continue to have enough doctors without an increase in medical schools.
Our population is increasing and there are new fields of medicine which should be covered. These should be taken into consideration as well as the efforts he suggests to keep the standards high. I do not think, for instance, that today we have the physical facilities for training enough psychiatrists or doctors in the field of mental health.