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Day 23 of Our 31 Day Series of How Medicine Got It Wrong

Medicine's Wrong Turn: The Unintended Consequences of the Flexner Report

Medicine is often seen as a noble profession, one that seeks to heal the sick and alleviate suffering. However, the history of medicine is also a history of biases, politics, and power struggles. In this post, we will explore how medicine got it wrong and how some of the decisions made in the past have had long-lasting effects on modern healthcare that we still see today.

The 1910 Report That Unintentionally Disadvantaged Minority Doctors

In 1910, the Carnegie Foundation commissioned a report on medical education in the United States and Canada. The report, known as the Flexner Report, evaluated the quality of medical schools and made recommendations for improvement. While the report was well-intentioned and led to many positive changes in medical education, it also had unintended consequences.

One of the consequences of the Flexner Report was the closure of many medical schools that served African American and other minority communities. The report argued that medical schools needed to have high standards and rigorous training to produce competent doctors. However, many medical schools that served minority communities did not have the resources to meet these standards and were forced to close.

As a result, African American doctors were disproportionately affected by the closure of these medical schools. Before the Flexner Report, there were more than a dozen medical schools that served African American students. After the report, only two remained. This had a significant impact on the number of African American doctors in the United States and the quality of healthcare available to minority communities.

Flexner's Impact on the Naturopathic Community

The Flexner Report also had an impact on the naturopathic community. Naturopathy is a form of alternative medicine that emphasizes natural remedies and a holistic approach to healthcare. The report criticized naturopathic schools for not meeting the same standards as allopathic medical schools and recommended that they be closed.

As a result, many naturopathic schools closed, and the naturopathic community went underground. Naturopaths were forced to practice in secret and were often persecuted for their beliefs. It wasn't until the 1970s that the naturopathic community began to resurface, and naturopathy was legalized in some states.

The Politics of Health: The Flexner Report and Its Impact on Modern Healthcare

The Flexner Report had a significant impact on modern healthcare. It led to the standardization of medical education and the closure of many medical schools that did not meet the new standards. However, it also had unintended consequences, such as the loss of diversity in the medical profession and the suppression of alternative forms of medicine.

Today, the medical profession is still grappling with issues of diversity and inclusion. While there has been progress in recent years, there is still a significant underrepresentation of minority groups in medicine. In addition, alternative forms of medicine, such as naturopathy, are still not widely accepted in the medical community, despite growing evidence of their efficacy.

The history of medicine is a complex and often messy one. The decisions made in the past have had long-lasting effects on modern healthcare, and we must understand these decisions if we are to make progress in the future.

In conclusion, the Flexner Report was a well-intentioned effort to improve medical education in the United States and Canada. However, it had unintended consequences that continue to affect modern healthcare. By understanding the history of medicine, we can work towards a more inclusive and holistic approach to healthcare that recognizes the value of diversity and alternative forms of medicine.

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  1. Krieger N. "The 1910 Report that Unintentionally Disadvantaged Minority Doctors." JSTOR Daily. Published February 28, 2018. Available at:

  2. Guillory V. "Flexner's Impact on the Naturopathic Community." NDNR. Published February 1, 2012. Available at:

  3. Carter J. "The Politics of Health: The Flexner Report and Its Impact on Modern Healthcare." Nutrition Diagnostics. Published August 13, 2019. Available at:

  4. Carter J. "The Politics of Health: Part 2." Nutrition Diagnostics. Published August 21, 2019. Available at:

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