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Symposium Planned to Mark Centennial of Flexner Report

[by Phyllis Shaikun]

One hundred years ago, Louisville educator Abraham Flexner revolutionized the medical profession with his exhaustive report entitled “Medical Education in the United States and Canada.” The report, published in 1910, served as a catalyst for the standardization of medical education around North America. To celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Flexner Report, the University of Louisville School of Medicine and Jewish Hospital will be jointly sponsoring a national event to be held on May 4 at the hospital’s Rudd Heart and Lung Conference Center and at the Old Louisville Medical School. The T. Cook Smith Lecture of the Innominate Society for Medical History and Banquet will be held the same evening.

Flexner’s research, originally commissioned by Henry Pritchett, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, included information gathered from his survey of the 155 medical schools then in existence in the United States and Canada. In matter-of-fact language, Flexner castigated the appalling state of medical education in America, named the names of schools with astounding low standards, and suggested drastic steps to improve the sad state of affairs.

 

Flexner, then secretary of the Rockefeller Foundation, became the major mover and shaker to ensure that medical education would never be the same. He was instrumental in providing funds to many designated medical schools and ushered in the aptly-named Flexnerian revolution in medical education. The Flexner Report catapulted Flexner, who was not a physician, to celebrity status in the education field where his opinion was sought on various educational matters – particularly on medical education.

“It is our pleasure to be co-hosting this event honoring Abraham Flexner,” says Jewish Hospital CEO Marty Bonick. “Medical schools throughout the United States are far stronger – even now – due to his extraordinary efforts. We appreciate our close association with the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine, and share their excitement in paying tribute to Flexner’s work in a substantive way.”

“Flexner was born in Louisville and lived here until he was 39 years of age,” said Dr. Edward Halperin, dean of the UofL School of Medicine. “Louisville is a fitting location to celebrate the centennial of the Report.”

Transition Director of the Jewish Community of Louisville, Ronald Greenberg, is aware of the Flexner family’s role in the Jewish community. Abraham Flexner’s brother, Jacob, and his nephews, Morris and Samuel, were all physicians associated with the old Jewish Hospital. After the Flexner report’s findings became known, all of the city’s “private medical colleges” closed; only the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine survived. Jewish Hospital memorialized Flexner’s contributions to medical education by naming the street in front of the hospital Abraham Flexner Way.

Drs. Morris Weiss, Adewale Troutman, Gordon Tobin, Charles Smith and E. Ray Knight have agreed to serve on different panels and on the Abstract Review Committee.

To register for the Flexner Symposium online at: http://www.jhsmh.org/flexnersymposium; access more information at www.louisville.edu/flexnersymposium or call Gail Ronayne at 587-4230.

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