Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

By Steven M. Stowe | Go to book overview

Chapter One
MEN, SCHOOLS, AND CAREERS

Becoming an M.D. in the mid-nineteenth-century United States was not an outlandish choice for a young man; it was not like running away to sea. But medicine, straddling the line between trade and profession, filled with economic and therapeutic uncertainties, was anything but the main chance. In the South, before and after the Civil War, the ideal of manly success was to master a flourishing plantation, the traditional seat of a man’s economic power, political influence, and social esteem. Nonetheless, thousands of southern men made orthodox medicine their choice during the mid-nineteenth century, and increasing numbers of them (including some men already in practice) decided that formal medical schools were the best place to pursue it.1

This chapter focuses on southern men making this choice, viewing it as an encounter between their ambitions—framed by family, gender, and the local context of medicine—and an orthodox profession itself in the throes of change. Indeed, the fact that students were defining their personal goals at just the time physicians were rethinking education makes schools a particularly good place to analyze the tensions shaping medicine in this period. What follows builds on the well-known picture of medical innovators using schools as the means of reforming orthodoxy into a more intellectually unified and therapeutically sound medicine. The main focus here is on schools as the local institutions they were, sites for a distinct, ground-level orthodoxy in the making. Socially speaking, this means looking at schools as strikingly visible, urban institutions built on—and helping to define—a fraternity of physicians. From an intellectual point of view, it means understanding how the new medical education was caught in the friction between two goals that, as we will see, influenced physicians’ view of their medicine throughout their careers. On the one hand, faculty and students

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Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Studies in Social Medicine ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - Physicians, Everyday Medicine, and the Country Orthodox Style 1
  • Part One - Choosing Medicine 13
  • Chapter One - Men, Schools, and Careers 15
  • Chapter Two - The Science of All Life 41
  • Chapter Three - Starting out 76
  • Part Two - Doing Medicine 99
  • Chapter Four - Livelihood 101
  • Chapter Five - Bedside 131
  • Part Three - Making Medicine 165
  • Chapter Six - The Lives of Others 167
  • Chapter Seven - Landscape, Race, and Faith 200
  • Chapter Eight - Witnessing 228
  • Epilogue - The Civil War and the Persistence of the Country Orthodox Style 259
  • Notes 273
  • Bibliography 327
  • Index 365
  • Studies in Social Medicine 374
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