The Social Transformation of American Medicine

Starr, Paul

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: Mar-05-1998


In his study, Professor Starr examines the evolution of the practice and the culture of medicine in the United States from the end of the colonial period into the last quarter of the twentieth century. His major concerns are with the development of authority, and the Janus image of professionalization as medicine has gained power, technical expertise, and effective modes of diagnosis and treatment and at the same time seems to be getting further from the patient.

At the time of publication, our society had finally begun to take a hard look at the impracticality and the inhumanity of continuing on the trajectory of American medicine developed one hundred years ago. Starr invites the reader to consider the impact of modern stress on the profession and, more intently, on the constituency it is dedicated to serve.


This is a superbly researched study, yet comfortably readable. One need not fully agree with Starr's interpretation of causality nor his questions about the future of medicine in the United States to appreciate the enormous amount of important historical and cultural information he has analyzed. His segments on the development of the profession's authority permit clear insights into the frustration patients are expressing with the system today. Starr helps to define the common grounds for shared concern and perhaps opens new doors for conversations between health care providers and recipients.


This book won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction.


Basic Bks.

Place Published

New York



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