The Professional Socialization of Medical Students and it’s Ramifications.

Doctors are regarded as the ultimate authority in the field of medicine. They enjoy unparalleled prestige, autonomy and dominance not seen by most other professions. This authority comes from two facts, the fact that medicine is over represented by White men and the fact that medicine is a highly technical and science-based discipline. In American society today, White males are still considered the embodiment of authority and intellect, and American culture values scientific knowledge. Medical students are trained within this context.

Medical school is long, expensive and difficult process. It is rigorous, hierarchical culture requiring students to master a lot of technical information about body systems. That can naturally lead a person to think of patients less as “people” and more as a collection of parts that needs to be fixed, sort of like a car. This is referred to as a mechanistic model of the body. This model combined with the American belief that one should be emotionally detached in order to make good decisions is supported and propagated in medical school. Also, the very essence of medicine is intervention. Doctors, and by extension medical students are trained in the belief that they must take proactive action to correct maligned body functions rather than letting the body heal itself.

The benefit of this type of training is you get highly competent doctors that do a lot of good for people.

One of the more devastating consequence of this is that a lot of “upstream” problems can be overlooked because of the absolute deference given to doctors. “Emotional detachment can lead doctors to treat patients insensitively and to overlook the emotional and social sources and consequences of illness.” (Weitz, 2010 :275). Furthermore, doctors are not immune to the biases and prejudices that afflict most of humanity. Because of that you end up with situations where minority people may not be given the same treatment and respect as majority people and that can have serious life or death consequences.


The Sociology of Health, Illness, and Health Care: A Critical Approach. Rose Weitz. Seventh Edition, 2010

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