The first hospital, the first medical school, the first medical society, and abundant Civil War casualties, all combined to establish the most important medical center in the country. It's still the second largest industry in the city.
Philadelphia dominated the medical profession so long that it's hard to distinguish between local traditions and national ones. The distinctive feature is that in Philadelphia you must be a real doctor before you become a mere specialist.
Some Philadelphia physicians are contributors to current national debates on the financing of medical care.
Insurance in Philadelphia
Early Philadelphia took a lead in insurance innovation. Some ideas, like life insurance, flourished. Others have faded.
|American Medical Association|
The House of Delegates of the American Medical Association holds a five day convention twice a year. The meetings last from 7 in the morning until midnight, although the main sessions in the auditorium only last eight hours a day for three days. The rest of the time is consumed with meals, committee meetings, geographical caucuses, and even cocktail parties. Newcomers often object to the numerous parties until they come to see that these are merely committee meetings in a different form, with different subsets of the organization picking up the necessary costs. This group of workaholics has to vote on several hundred issues each session, and most Delegates have little advance opinion when they enter the headquarters hotel on the first day. But after meeting with their specialty in one committee, and members of their geographical region in another, and members of their medical school alumni association in yet another, and with issue-oriented groups, political allies, and other layers of an overlapping matrix day after day -- by the time the vote is actually called for, most Delegates could safely predict the correct outcome with very few exceptions. The AMA works at its similar job with far greater intensity than Congress does because Congress has all year to do it, while the doctors have to go home to make a living. Don't worry about the parties, they are really working sessions for everyone except rank newcomers, outsiders, visitors, and wives. What is perhaps more worrisome is the rare occasion when just about every delegate arrives with one opinion and is persuaded by the leadership to adopt the reverse. That can only happen if new information is suddenly revealed, with little time to check its accuracy.
There are usually fifteen or so parties every night, hosted by large state delegations, large specialty assemblies, and coalitions of smaller groups. Fifteen drinks a night would be quite a bit for most folks, and some newcomers are duped into trying to be polite about it. The rest of us take the proffered drink, walk over to a nearby plant stand and dump it. I hate to think of how many potted palms I have fried that way. Each delegation has its own system of organizing these minutes, and I'll try to describe the Pennsylvania system.
Nobody will come to your party if you don't go to theirs, so we make a list and divide the group into those who "travel" to the parties of other states, and those who remain to host our own party, "at the door". Everyone is expected to wear a name tag, containing your name in large type underneath which is your caucus designation, in my case "Pennsylvania". The older members instruct the newer ones to put the name tag just under their right shoulder. That way, you can seem to be looking at the hand you are shaking while freshening your recollection of who in the world you are meeting. You can, of course, do anything you please, but time is short for the transaction of a lot of business, and it's just easier to do routine things the regulation way, and get on with it.
On the evening in question, I was "at the door". The formula, repeated many times, was to extend a hand of greeting and recite, "Welcome to Pennsylvania. Are you looking for some friend in particular? Let me see that you have a drink. Come on in and meet my fellow delegate, Scotty Donaldson." You can shepherd a lot of people more or less gracefully if you reduce the formalities to a routine. After several people had been brought in under the tent, a man with highly polished shoes came up, wearing a name tag that said, "Blue Cross of America". He was greeted, his hand pumped, a drink procured, and was introduced to Scotty, our most famous extrovert. I quickly turned to the next person at the door.
Well, this lady was six inches taller than I am, and fifty pounds lighter. She wore a name tag, identifying her as President of some Nurses Association, "Welcome to Pennsylvania! Is there someone from Pennsylvania you know or would like to meet? Can I......" The apparition didn't even look at me as she brushed past through the door. Heading straight for the gentleman from Blue Cross, she poked her index finger into his chest, stopped him in mid-sentence as he talked to Scotty.
"What I want to know, " she announced to this startled man, "Is when are you people in Blue Cross going to pay nurses as much as you pay doctors?" And here I must admit I have to give this guy credit for unperturbability.
"Well, madam," he said cheerfully, "I think that's going to be quite some time."
Originally published: Tuesday, July 10, 2007; most-recently modified: Sunday, July 21, 2019