Medical School Research
Medical School Research
Research in medical schools developed after World War I with specific projects funded by foundations, firms, and industries. After World War II, medical schools greatly expanded their research activities with funding from the federal government. Medical school researchers became the most important performers of research funded by the National Institutes of Health, which delegated most of its responsibility for setting research policy to academic medical researchers. Both basic science and clinical research in medical schools has been directed toward an understanding of biological processes rather than the prevention and treatment of disease. Medical school research has become a specialized activity separate from other medical school activities. Research in medical schools began in earnest after 1900 with the employment of full-time faculty members. The quantity of research was limited and the quality did not meet European standards. Erwin Chargaff reminisced that when he came to the United States in 1928, “I found a scientifically underdeveloped country dominated by an unhurried, good-natured, second-rateness. European scientists who visited the country at that time were attracted by the feeling of freedom generated by the wide open spaces and even more by the then very pleasant aroma of the dollar.” Research was at first funded from medical school endowments and grants from a few major foundations, such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation. By the mid-1930s, about 20 private foundations had a major interest in health and spent a total of about $7 million annually for medical research and medical education. About this time also, the American Foundation for Mental Hygiene, the American Cancer Society, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, and other health-related associations began to fund research related to their interests. Private firms also sponsored research with direct commercial applications. In return, they used the names of the medical schools in advertisements as providing “scientific” data to support their claims. By 1940, research had become a measurable factor in medical school budgets. In that year Deitrick and Berson found that 59 of the 77 medical schools spent $3.2 million on research: 22 public medical schools spent 8.9 percent of their combined budgets of $9.5 million on research, and 37 private medical schools spent 13.0 percent of their budgets of $17.8 million on research.
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