Plow, town, and gown: the politics of family practice in 1960s America

Bull Hist Med. 2013 Winter;87(4):648-80. doi: 10.1353/bhm.2013.0061.


In the 1960s, general practitioners organized themselves into a state-based nationwide political movement that lobbied state legislators and state-funded medical schools to create departments of family practice. They framed their calls in the context of the national shortages of primary care physicians by arguing that those medical schools that received state funding had an obligation to the state to train sufficient numbers of primary care physicians to ensure the health care needs of the state's residents would be met. As this article reveals, two defining features of this activism were rural politics and the politics of town and gown. The history of family practice thus introduces a new dimension to the familiar dyad of town and gown relations: the plow-rural physicians who brought to the medical politics of the post-World War II United States a distinctive and powerful set of political, social, and economic interests.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Family Practice / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Minnesota
  • Physicians / history*
  • Politics*
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration
  • Social Environment
  • United States
  • Workforce