The History Of Western Medicine And Healthcare In America

A common conspiracy theory is that Western Medicine is controlled by pharmaceutical companies also referred to as Big Pharma. Because it is a widely believed conspiracy theory, it’s worth taking a look at.  Let’s start with the definition of  “Conspiracy”, according to the dictionary it is a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.  We all know that the pharmaceutical companies role in western medicine is not a secret.  

The definition of “Allopathic” also referred to as “Western Medicine” is a system in which medical doctors and healthcare professionals treat symptoms and disease using surgery and drugs.  By definition “drugs” are one of the main treatment protocols and it appears as though western medicine and the pharmaceutical companies are working together.  Hardly a secret plan to control, more of a partnership with the same mission and goals.

That is why conspiracy theories are not helpful, they distract from the truth and focus our energy in the wrong direction. The question should be why?  Why do we focus more on Western Medicine than on all other forms of healthcare?  To answer that question, we need to take a look at the history of our medical education system.  

To give a little background, in the early 1900’s the most common medical schools were traditional osteopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, holistic medicine and herbal medicine.  The school of Allopathic medicine (surgery and drugs) didn’t gain popularity until The Flexner Report was introduced to Congress in 1910.  The Flexner Report was written by Abraham Flexner, who was commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teachings, they were hired by the American Medical Association (AMA) to survey the American medical education.  Abraham Flexner was not a physician, scientist nor a medical educator but he did hold respect for his views on the standards of education.  

The Flexner Report, titled Medical Education in the United States and Canada analyzed the educational programs of 155 medical schools throughout North America.  The research concluded that the medical education system was woefully inadequate in every aspect, including its lack of laboratory facilities, disorganized administrative practices and lack of teaching and curriculum standards.  

His recommendations ultimately led to the shutdown of more than 50% of the medical schools in the country and 80% of homeopathy, naturopathy, eclectic therapy, physical therapy, osteopathy, and chiropractic.  He believed in a scientific approach and what he deemed were any illegitimate nonscientific approaches were labeled as “charlatanism” and “quackery” and he publicly made it his mission to discard these non-biomedical approaches.

In parallel John D. Rockefeller, the wealthiest man in American who controlled 90% of all petroleum, was moving into the medical and pharmaceutical industry.  All of these events came together and set the stage for state funding for biomedical research and health care support through company-based plans and state welfare insurance.  These were made possible by philanthropic foundations such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation.  

Medicine has led to the eradication of many terminal diseases and plays a critical role in healthcare.  But, let’s face it, If the Flexner Report was written today it would’ve gone through more scrutiny than it did back in the early 1900’s.  The report was one man’s assessment and opinion and it bode well for a very wealthy figure in American history, John D. Rockefeller.  Unfortunately, that single report is responsible for the healthcare system we have in place today.  One that lacks non drug based preventative care, one that treats the symptom and not the problem and one that is limited to western medicine for insurance coverage.  

Let Food Be They Medicine

Let’s go back to the definition of Western Medicine, a system in which medical doctors treat “symptoms” and “diseases” using “surgery” and “drugs”.  This implies that you have to be sick and that the treatment will be surgery, drugs or a combination of both.  Does this mean Western Medicine practitioners are not equipped in preventative healthcare?  Perhaps, the standard curriculum only includes 23.9 hours of nutrition instruction.  Hippocrates stated, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.  Yet the school of medicine doesn’t study the effects of food and how they nourish our body.  

The schools of naturopathy, homeopathy, functional medicine, and others focus more on the whole body and how the body can heal itself. They are educated on all of the same basic sciences as western medicine, but also study holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. 

I hope by now the American population agrees that these alternative medical schools are not quackery and in fact they play a critical role in healthcare.  With all of the movements we have in America today, a movement to revamp our healthcare education system to include a more comprehensive and integrative approach is needed.  We also need to ask the Insurance companies to provide insurance for all forms of healthcare practices, not just western medicine.  

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