Between the World Wars
The period between the two world wars was, for sociology generally, a time of growth and of institutionalization. As for medical sociology, this was when much of its intellectual foundation was built. Bernhard Stern, 1 Michael Davis, and Henry Sigerist carried forward the traditions of social medicine, both scholarly and activist. Within academic sociology, on the other hand, a quite different approach was initiated. Lawrence J. Henderson, in a Harvard seminar on Pareto in 1931, used medicine as the illustrative case for the development of social theory. 2 Functionalism, on the model Henderson himself pioneered in physiology, was his prime concern, applied to the phenomena of social behavior. The doctorpatient relationship, Henderson said, should be conceived as a social system, and his colleague Talcott Parsons and his student Robert Merton developed the theory further as structural-functionalism, including among their substantive illustrations the social roles, organizations, and processes of socialization in modern medicine. 3
These decades also saw the development of social psychiatry and the social ecology of disease. A physician, Harry Stack Sullivan, pioneered the former, but in close association with social scientists. Robert E. L. Faris and H. Warren Dunham built on the primary sources of empirical sociology at Chicago to apply the most advanced survey methods of sociology to the social epidemiology of mental disease.
All of these activities were rich, both in their published results and in influence on future work, but they represented a classic pattern of individualized academic scholarship. These were efforts of individual scholars, working without membership in a defined and organized “field. ” Included were a mix of physicians and sociologists. Henderson, Sullivan, Sigerist, and Ackerknecht were physicians; Stern, Parsons, Faris, and Dunham were sociologists. They related to and affected one another but not on a continuing, institutionalized basis. At the same time, however, two remarkable historical events occurred that produced a very different style of inquiry about medical problems, bringing social scientists and physicians together in a cooperative attempt to work directly from scientific study to policy decisions. The Committee on the Costs of Medical Care (CCMC) and the President's Research Committee on Social Trends (the “Ogburn Commission”), were both started in a time of economic prosperity by farsighted groups. The Great