This second post in our series on the malevolent effects of the big Foundations concerns the medical industry. In 1908, the Rockefellers went to Andrew Carnegie, who then located one Abraham Flexner (1866-1959). The Jewish Flexner went across the nation studying medical schools and published Medical Education in the United States and Canada — more popularly known as the Flexner Report (1910).
Although Flexner had never set foot inside a medical school, he was Rockefeller’s / Carnegie’s first choice to lead a study of American medical education. Although not a physician himself, Flexner was selected for his “writing ability” and his disdain for traditional education. He was also a first class hack and self promoter.
The Flexner Report showed that there was a “need” to standardize the medical education system. It increased the schooling time required to be a physician to a minimum of six years, preferably eight years of post-secondary education, typically in a university setting. With the skyrocketing cost of education in recent decades this has ratcheted up the cost of medicine.
Up to that time, the teaching and practice of medicine was more hands on, and more of an empirical craft. The ideas of Dr. William Osler (1849-1919) dominated. His greatest influence on medicine was to insist that students learn from seeing and talking to patients and the establishment of the medical residency. He hoped his tombstone would say only, “He brought medical students into the wards for bedside teaching.”
Osler was more dedicated to developing the physician as a person and a communicator, also called “the bedside manner”. Interpersonal relationships with the patient and getting to know him or her as an individual was paramount. But Flexner attacked these traditions and other distractions from “serious learning,” such as intercollegiate athletics, student government, and other student activities. “Serious learning” morphed into standardizing medical education and care that favored a so-called loaded version of “science”, protocols, and memorization over a patient-centered approach.
The Foundations started a program of ranking medical schools. It gave high marks to schools for pill pushing and pharma promotion. While as Osler preached reasonable expectations on what medicine could do for patients, the Flexner approach brought about hype, “cures” and promotion of physicians as omnipotent. Medicine and medical industries were to become highly profitable. The Foundation’s oligarphs became big investors in the industry of medicine that they wrote the rules for. This is manifested today in over-testing, and over-prescribing, which has also resulted in a poor cost benefit for the patient.
The “generous” John D. Rockefeller then “donated” $180 million dollars ($4.4 billion in current value) to colleges and hospitals, so that they could come into compliance with the report. The General Education Board was formed, which would oversee the education practices at schools. The AMA as a compliance and influencing organization for practicing physicans took off.
Additionally the Flexner Report dealt with naturopathic medicine. This was mocked, demonized, and coined as “quackery.” Many doctors lost their jobs, schools, and hospitals were closed down nationwide. Schools were told to drop all naturopathic courses, or lose their accreditation and underwriting support. As the Flexner process continued into more modern times, this was all replaced with expensive pills and vaccines.
Abraham Flexner made the Ku Klux Klan look like pikers. As an adherent to germ theory, he argued that African-Americans and poor whites posed a health threat to the middle/upper class. Thus he argued for medical segregation.
And because rural medical colleges couldn’t meet ole Abraham’s new “high standards”, this led to the closure of most rural medical schools and all but two African-American medical colleges in the United States. Flexner declared “The practice of the Negro doctor will be limited to his own race”.
As a result “black” students had very little chance of getting into medical school for the next 50 years. Thus medical care for blacks, and the poor was set back two generations and rendered much more expensive to boot.