This is the first of a series of three articles in which Dr. A. J. Rongy, Chief of Gynecology at the Hospital for Joint Diseases, discusses the problem of discrimination against Jews by the medical schools of this country and the correlated problem of overcrowding of the profession by Jews.
The question of discrimination against Jews in the medical colleges of this country has come to the fore again. First there was the letter of the president of Wesleyan University, Dr. James L. McConaughy, in which he warned twelve prospective Jewish medical students that they face a “rather difficult situation” in the pursuit of their professional ambitions.
A Gentile had spoken frankly. An honorable and respected educator laid himself open to the charge of anti-Semitism by a statement which most Jews, in their hearts, knew to be only too true. The professor, noting the records of his pre-med. students, immediately saw that some of his Jewish students were having difficulties in obtaining entrance to medical schools because of their Jewishness.
Knowing the case histories of the students, he knew that their religion was the basis of their difficulties. Honorable and above-board, he warned his Jewish students of what was ahead of them.
DEFENDERS DON ARMOR
A number of Jewry’s professional defenders were immediately aroused into action. It wasn’t right to try to keep Jewish students from their chosen field; it smacked of anti-Semitism.
Others admitted the truth of the situation and, less publicly, made the point that vocational guidance among Jews was the solution. The topic received widespread attention from rabbinical pulpits.
It was from one of these pulpits that Dr. Samuel J. Kopetzky, former president of the New York County Medical Society, made a statement startling in its admission and sensational in its implications.
Dr. Kopetzky delivered a defense of racial and religious quotas in American medical schools. He said, in effect, that Jewish medical students should be limited in number to the proportion of Jews to the American population.
In fewer, and more ill-sounding words, he advocated a numerus clausus for Jewish medical students.
WAS ALSO SINCERE
No less sincere, in all likelihood, than Professor McConaughy, Dr. Kopetzky elaborated the former’s ideas to a point where many Jews cannot see face to face with him although they do recognize the validity of the Wesleyan president’s original statement.
McConaughy recognized discrimination against Jewish medical students. He urged nothing further than that Jewish students should be aware of it. Dr. Kopetzky noted the discrimination and said there should be more of it, that it should be formalized, that it should be given legal recognition.
When a Jew comes out for Jewish discrimination, that is news. The newspapers, both general and Jewish, did as would be expected. A world, already so occupied with racial and religious discriminations, had another problem on its hands.
In fairness to Dr. Kopetzky, and other adherents of the numerus clausus philosophy, it is only right that the reader should have a realization of the thoughts behind his statement. Predicated on the belief that the Jewish physician must rely upon the Jewish patient for his clientele, Dr. Kopetzky feared that too many young Jewish doctors were being graduated from the medical schools.
Of late years, all surveys indicate, seventeen to twenty per cent. of medical school registration has been Jewish.
All of which leads up to the obvious statement that there are too many Jewish doctors; that, with a clientele limited through no fault of their own, the economics of medical practice were becoming increasingly difficult for Jewish physicians.
To blurt it right out, it means that a too high state of competition among physicians results in an increase in unethical practices among them.
All doctors, Gentile and Jewish, agree on this point. Such has always been the history of medicine and the American Medical Association has consistently sought to do away with overcrowding in the field as a whole.
The February, 1934, issue of the American Medical Association Bulletin records an address: “The Social Dangers of An Oversupply of Physicians” by Dr. Walter L. Bierring which was read before the annual conference of Secretaries of constituent state Medical Associations. One particularly pertinent sentence follows:
“There is a tendency on the part of some who have been licensed to practice to assume the responsibility of an operation when not properly prepared or equipped to do good surgical work, particularly if last month’s office rent is not paid.”
MUST KEEP ALIVE
Bread and butter, the medical profession admits, is important even to those who take the oath of Hippocrates. And though the world may not be particularly concerned about lowering standards in other fields, it is in medicine. Public health is a matter of public concern.
Dr. Bierring. in proving his contention that there is an overproduction of American physicians, further states:
1.â€”That during a ten-year period the number of medical graduates exceeded the number of deaths in the profession.
2.â€”That according to the final report of the Commission on Medical Education, the United States has more physicians per unit of population than any other country in the world, twice as many as the leading countries of Europe. With a total of 156,444 licensed physicians in the United States at the present time, there is one for every 780 persons. England has one doctor per 1,490 persons; France, one per 1,690, and Sweden one per 2,890.
3.â€”That it has been estimated that a reasonably complete medical care can be provided in this country on the basis of one physician to about 1,200 persons. Which means that we should have 120,000 physicians and there is at present an approximate surplus of 35,000 physicians.
4.â€”That at the present rate of supply, the number of excess physiciansâ€”figured by actuarial calculationsâ€”is on the increase. That by 1940, there will be one physician per 760 persons; by 1960 about one for every 730 and in 1980, one for every 690.
Thus the problem of overcrowding is applicable to the entire profession, not only to the Jews in it. But with a Jewish population in this country that doesn’t increase appreciably, it is quite obvious that a twenty per cent, registration of Jews in the medical schools will bring the ratio of Jewish doctors to Jews in America even more out of proportion than it is now.
(To Be Continued Tomorrow)