Shortage of Doctors

March 23, 1943

Report Outline
The War and the Need for Medical Care
Prewar Supply and Distribution of Physicians
Wartime Changes in Distribution of Physicians
Proposals for More Effective Use of Doctors
Special Focus

The War and the Need for Medical Care

Sharp reduction in the number of physicians whose services are available to the civilian population of the United States has occurred since Pearl Harbor because of heavy demands for service of medical men with the armed forces. At the same time, the civilian demand for physicians has increased rapidly in numerous war industry centers and in extramilitary areas which have absorbed large influxes of population.

Crowded living conditions in war production areas have increased potential as well as present needs for medical care. Thomas Francis Jr., professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, warned, March 9, that an outbreak of influenza comparable to that of 1918 is a definite possibility for the winter of 1943–44. The major hazard in 1918 was overcrowding, and Francis pointed out that the “elements which are thought to have been largely responsible for that dreadful epidemic are present today to an even more marked degree.” If there is an increase in general sickness rates among war workers in crowded industrial centers, absenteeism will show a marked increase despite current efforts to lower absence rates at war plants, and war goods for the fighting fronts will be delayed.

Even in the years before the war, the national supply of physicians was distributed inadequately in relation to need; in general, the population in urban and well-to-do areas enjoyed the services of proportionately larger numbers of physicians than populations in rural and lower-income sections of the nation. The normal maldistribution of doctors has been intensified by wartime developments, first, because many of the understaffed areas have lost a higher percentage of their normal supply of physicians than have those areas with a relative oversupply; secondly, because the migration of workers to war industry “boom towns” has not been accompanied by a comparable migration of doctors. These factors have led some persons to demand that steps be taken to distribute the supply of physicians which remains to the civilian population in such a way as to insure more equal access to medical care to all sections of the country.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Aug. 28, 2015  Doctor Shortage
May 05, 2000  Rating Doctors
Jan. 27, 1989  Too Many Doctors?
Nov. 25, 1977  Medical Education
Mar. 13, 1968  Medical Education
Nov. 09, 1960  Doctor Supply and Medical Education
Feb. 14, 1951  Medical Manpower
Mar. 23, 1943  Shortage of Doctors
Defense Personnel
Medical Profession and Personnel
U.S. at War: World War II