Title

A HISTORICAL INVESTIGATION OF THE IMPACT OF WORLD WAR II ON HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL--1938-1948 (MASSACHUSETTS)

Date of Completion

January 1983

Keywords

Education, Higher

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

Problem. A major war's impact is frequently reflected in the training of professionals requiring higher education. During World War II, more doctors were needed than were practicing or graduating; consequently, medical schools had to train more physicians.^ Procedure. From the universe of medical schools, Harvard was selected for in-depth analysis because it has long been in the forefront of medical education, research, and training. Library and archival research and personal interviews were conducted to investigate the impact of World War II on Harvard Medical School's admission, enrollment, students, graduation, curriculum, faculty, and research from 1938 through 1948, and to determine what implications such a study has for future administrators faced with a major national crisis.^ Findings. Although the majority of wartime students were younger, non-degreed, in the military, accelerated, and taught by a depleted teaching staff, the war's impact was not reflected in student grades, activities, or choice of medical specialty. With acceleration, five classes graduated during the four war years. During and after the war, fewer students graduated with Special Honors--which is attributed to abbreviated undergraduate preparation, medical school acceleration (which allowed little time for independent research), and to the absence of Faculty members to nurture a student's special interests. The wartime teaching staff, reduced by almost half, taught continuously, assumed teaching responsibilities for those in the military, participated in war-related activities and research, and implemented a war-related curriculum.^ Conclusions. Future administrators, facing a major national crisis can expect a certain loss of autonomy and an increase in prescribed activities generated by external forces. These areas include: admission policies, school calendar, subject matter, research, goals, and student living conditions and finances. Demands by external forces will result in fewer teachers, courses, independent research, supplies, tutorials, outside experiences, vacations, requirements, and summer earnings. The institution probably will be allowed some discretion in executing certain prescribed activities, such as additional graduates, subject matter, vacations and personnel. The post-crisis impact will be in the areas of reconversion, funding, student finances, new knowledge, and veteran reeducation. ^