If you’ve ever wondered how modern-day medicine got to where it is today, you should begin by learning about Abraham Flexner. He’s probably one of the most influential men no one has ever heard of.
In 1910 he published the book-length report Medical Education in the United States and Canada which is now known as the Flexner Report. And, the rest, as they say, is history.
Abraham Flexner was not a doctor, but this school teacher and educational theorist from Louisville, Kentucky, has had a more significant impact on modern medicine than just about anyone else.
Though institutions such as Johns Hopkins were already implementing “modern principles” into their work, most medical schools had yet to subscribe to these paradigms.
So what Flexner did was to attempt to align medical education under a set of norms that emphasized laboratory research and the patenting of medicine — both of which would serve to further enrich the estates of the entrepreneurs who funded Flexner’s 1910 report: John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and others.
Sounds like a win-win, right? … Well, not exactly.
In fact, chances are that if Flexner had not submitted his report that audited medical schools in the United States and Canada, we would not have a society heavily biased in favor of many inhumane and unnatural medical practices that we have today.
Should there have been more accountability for medical practitioners in North America? Probably. Should that accountability come from the oil industry and others who saw the domination of medicine as another way to amass wealth? That seems to be a conflict of interest, to put it mildly.
Dr. Thomas P. Duffy in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine offered this analysis of Flexner’s approach:
“There was maldevelopment in the structure of medical education in America in the aftermath of the Flexner Report. The profession’s infatuation with the hyper-rational world of German medicine created an excellence in science that was not balanced by a comparable excellence in clinical caring. Flexner’s corpus was all nerves without the life blood of caring. Osler’s warning that the ideals of medicine would change as ‘teacher and student chased each other down the fascinating road of research, forgetful of those wider interests to which a hospital must minister' has proven prescient and wise.”
But isn’t this sort of what you’d expect when an evil genius — all intellect, no compassion — like Rockefeller determines the future of medical education and care?
Of course, it's not just the research that modern medicine is after. While notoriety for the latest “breakthroughs” certainly drives most medicine, money is the ultimate determiner of access and availability of treatments.
And getting back to the connection between the robber barons and medicine, why did Rockefeller et al have such an interest in medical education? One possible reason could’ve been their interest in peddling pharmaceuticals that began as byproducts of oil refinement.
Health journalist S.D. Wells notes in the eBook 25 Amazing (and Disturbing) Facts About the Hidden History of Medicine, “Five score and two years ago, a man named Abraham Flexner was hired by John D. Rockefeller to evaluate the effectiveness of therapies being taught by medical colleges and institutions, with the ultimate goal of dominating control over pharmaceuticals.
“With partnerships including Andrew Carnegie and JP Morgan, a new “doorkeeper” would exist to influence legislative bodies on state and federal levels to create regulations and licensing “red tape” that strictly promoted drug medicine while stifling and shutting down alternative, inexpensive natural remedies. Those medical colleges and institutions that did not submit to this superpower of regulation were crushed and put out of business.
“The Flexner report was conveniently titled Medical Education in the United States and Canada and the 22 page control ‘mechanism' was more or less a teamsters union, and medical schools in the U.S. were cut in half by the Flexner Report in less than 15 years, from 160 to 80, and then down below 70 by World War II. This concentrated control is the direct cause of the majority of problems with health care today.”
Flexner elevated the importance of medical research to a status of near infallibility as he helped import and institute German educational methods in the teaching of medicine.
This brought many needed improvements to medical students’ practical field experience through hands-on learning, but it also built in a strong bias in favor of empirical science (i.e. pharmaceutical drugs) to the exclusion of whole-patient care or any of the more natural treatment options.
Sound familiar? Have you ever experienced this in your journey of medical care? A doctor who threw you a bottle of science while only skimming the surface of your overall health?
Flexner helped pave the way for a medical monopoly that persists to this day. Modern medicine has become such a systemic force that none of this is really shocking to you, right? Of course, drugs are patented. Of course, they’re expensive and controlled by a select group of companies and government agencies. Of course, we can’t use plants as medicine. That’s quackery!
“So the stage was set for the ‘education' of the American public, with a view to turning it into a population of drug and medico dependents …”
Addressing John D. Rockefeller's end-goal
What is the Flexner Report?
Turn of the century technology such as the automobile and the airplane were capturing the imaginations of Americans and respect was growing for specialists in every field. In this frenzy for the latest and greatest, the door was wide open for how new technology might improve our lives in every way. So why not also give our health over to science and technology and see if they can also improve and lengthen our lives?
This proverbial search for the fountain of youth that seems to emerge in different ways in every generation appeared in the form of medical advances in the early 1900s. So when educational theorist and celebrity Abraham Flexner caught the attention of American aristocracy, who saw advances in education as a way to build their empire, they (Rockefeller, Carnegie, et al.) approached Flexner.
“Rockefeller’s goal was to dominate the oil, chemical, and pharmaceutical markets, so his company [Standard Oil of New Jersey] purchased a controlling interest in a huge German drug/chemical company called I.G. Farben,” Ty Bollinger said.
Hans Ruesch also drew the connection between this and the need for an educational component, “So the stage was set for the ‘education' of the American public, with a view to turning it into a population of drug and medico dependents, with the early help of the parents and the schools, then with direct advertising and, last but not least, the influence the advertising revenues had on the media-makers.
It makes sense that if you’re going to make products that alleviate symptoms, but that are potentially dangerous and that could create dependency, then you should create professionals who can help mitigate some of the life-threatening effects while also extolling the benefits.
Obviously, there are plenty of highly trained doctors who aren’t interested in helping fuel the pharmaceutical propaganda machine, but there’s a system in place that virtually ensures that we take the bait.
Is Cancer Tutor anti-science?
Cancer Tutor is not an anti-science / anti-medicine website. One of our roles though is to challenge assumptions and the status quo. Just because a lot of really smart people have done the same things for decades doesn’t mean they’re doing the right things.
Galileo would agree with us on this.
And speaking of assumptions, we make a few of our own. We assume that the body has an amazing capacity to heal itself if given a chance. And we assume that the deification of modern medicine and the quick-fix addiction of western culture have taken our health out of our own hands and put it in the hands of a money-hungry system that cannot make a profit if people aren’t sick.
While this system has done many good things, we believe we have given it too much power. It is a system that is, for the most part, blind to its own sins and shortcomings.There are many good doctors and other medical professionals who seek to do their best for their patients and who know and seek to challenge the status quo.
But for the most part, medicine has become tone deaf to the oath it claims to uphold — the Hippocratic oath. We believe Flexner paved the way for this overthrow of whole-body health by making scientific research and training alone the only desirable and credible approach to human wellness.
Much like Galileo’s critics, the medical industry has, in a lot of ways, created a list of heretics that they’d like to get rid of. Natural medicine practitioners would be on that list.
Did You Know?
Hippocratic OathI swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help
How did we let this happen?
Keep in mind there were no real effective governmental agencies in place monitoring the state of affairs within the medical community, so what Flexner did at the behest of the robber barons, he did so in favor of profits rather than the long-term care of patients. He effectively created a culture that enabled the monetization of medicine like never before. This might not have been his intent, but the outcome speaks for itself.
Flexner threw out the baby with the snake oil. And while some good came out of the Flexner Report, what really came out was a new as-of-yet untapped way to turn a profit through medical science without the competition of medical professionals outside the fold. In short, the Flexner Report enabled a monopoly on healthcare.
Medical professionals who leaned heavily toward natural healing posed the greatest threat to this standardization because they continued to demonstrate that nature has provided what’s necessary to treat or prevent just about any illness.
After all, you can’t patent a plant or an essential oil, but you can patent a lab-created molecule that strongly resembles that of the plants. If profits are what you’re after and it all seems rather harmless, why not make some money while you’re making people well.
But here’s one problem with that. Drugs, on the whole (there certainly are exceptions), don’t really make people well. Pharmaceutical success is not based on the effectiveness of the drug. It’s based on the amount of profit it can generate. That’s what “blockbuster” in “blockbuster drug” means.
Drugs do a masterful job of making us feel well, and often pretty quickly. But only temporarily, because drugs are created to treat symptoms and only rarely treat the actual cause. Plus, drugs create their own symptoms, sometimes requiring additional drugs to offset their ill effects. We live in a quick-fix culture where we crave immediate gratification. We certainly have more drive-thru restaurants than we have home gardens.
And let’s be honest. If we’re given a choice between life changes that would solve root causes or take drugs that can make us believe that our health is under control, our convenience-craving minds will choose drugs almost every time.
But all convenience comes at a cost and with a long-term loss.
Question: When was the last time a doctor encouraged you to forego a medication in favor of a significant lifestyle adjustment?
The truth is, doctors are humans, too, and they’re working under the same pressures and status quo seeded by the development of the Flexner Report — thus the need for this examination. The problem with our thinking is systemic and nearly impossible to pinpoint, but if we could start challenging our assumptions we could get somewhere.
And we firmly believe that the origin of all of our assumptions about how the medical industry should operate can be encapsulated in works like the Flexner Report and their ilk.
First of all, we would never tell you to take our advice over that of a medical professional. Our role in this conversation is to question assumptions, challenge the status quo and encourage curiosity.
A lot of knowledge has been suppressed in favor of lab-based synthetic treatments and quick fixes. What the Flexner Report did is not nearly as powerful as what we do every day when we choose a poor lifestyle.
A vital life will not come from solely from pushing against conventional medicine. True vitality comes as a result of your decisions right now to detoxify your life. Food and the natural world around you can be medicine; proper nutrition can heal the causes, rather than merely treating the symptoms of poor health and a lifetime of abuse.