The continued social transformation of the medical profession

J Health Soc Behav. 2010;51 Suppl:S94-106. doi: 10.1177/0022146510383500.


A pressing concern in contemporary health policy is whether the medical profession's mandate to take care of clients has been undermined by the influx of money into health care. We examine the medical profession's transformation over the past decades. First, we review how sociologists have viewed the medical profession over the past half-century as one stakeholder among other stakeholders vying for market share and power in the health care field. We then examine three recent challenges to the profession that exemplify the tension between self-interest and collective altruism to act in the best interest of patients: (1) the rise of patient consumerism, (2) the advent of evidence-based medicine, and (3) the increasing power of the pharmaceutical industry. We show the resilience of the medical profession as it adapts and transforms in response to these challenges. We conclude with implications to help inform policy makers' assessments of how the medical profession will react to policy initiatives.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Community Participation
  • Delivery of Health Care / trends*
  • Drug Industry
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Care Reform
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Philosophy, Medical
  • Power, Psychological
  • Professional Practice / trends*
  • Social Change*
  • Sociology, Medical*
  • United States