Grasping health system is as key as learning science of medicine

Thank you to Nathaniel P. Morris (“Complicated procedures,” Op-ed, April 14) for his thoughtful and articulate statement about the concerns of today’s beginning medical students.

Harvard Medical School should not limit its health policy course to a single exposure in the first year. True, students have much else to learn before they graduate, and true, the future shape of the complex health system is uncertain. But misconceptions and ignorance about health care are best corrected by the medical profession. Therefore, thorough education in the facts and problems of the health system are just as important for today’s students as acquiring competence in the science and practice of medicine.


Morris should not have to fall back on unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia — that is, the arcane science of medicine — as he says he might at the end of his essay. We need his voice in the larger arena.

Dr. Arnold S. Relman

Dr. Marcia Angell


The writers are, respectively, professor emeritus of medicine and of social medicine and senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School, and are former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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