I can recall from my college days sitting around a campfire, I a lowly J-student, with a bunch of med school students and their dates. (Can that have been almost 40 years ago? Oh, yes. All the med school students were guys, and their dates all girls.) The discussion turned to whether the physicians in training were going into the field primarily to help people, or to make a lot of money. One by one, they said “to make a lot of money,” till it got to the guy next to me. He sheepishly admitted, “to help people.” He was the lone idealist in the group. (Not my date for the night, either, alas.) Not every college student was trying to change “the system” back in the Age of Aquarius.
I thought of him when I saw a commentary, written for stltoday.com by Dr. Ed Weisbart, chairman of Physicians for a National Health Program — St. Louis, who find med students are going into the field for, as he says, “all the right reasons,” and support a change in the system:
If you ever want to rekindle your hope for American medicine, spend time with medical students. These bright, energetic minds are going into medicine for all the right reasons — to help people, relieve suffering and find new ways to cure illness and eradicate disease.
Their idealism is a pleasure to behold, particularly to a veteran physician like me. Yet I’m painfully aware of how our current health care ‘system” can undermine students’ idealism, especially if they see no alternative.
Fortunately, a better alternative is waiting in the wings: a single-payer, improved Medicare-for-all program. Most Americans, including 59 percent of physicians, want access to an improved Medicare. I’m pleased to report that our physicians-in-training are strong supporters of this truly universal, comprehensive and affordable alternative.