The 1951 Harvard student uprising against the intern match

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Abstract

In the fall of 1951, a group of Harvard medical students led by W. Hardy Hendren, III organized a national movement against the newly instituted match that would assign graduating seniors to hospital internship programs. Before then, hospitals with intern positions to fill rushed to secure commitments from students, who in turn accepted the first decent offer that came their way. Knowing that students could not risk waiting for a better offer, hospitals pushed them into making early commitments. When some students began getting offers in their junior and sophomore years, medical schools, professional groups, and hospitals organized the National Inter-association Committee on Internships to deal with the issue. The intern match was thus organized and scheduled to take place in 1952. When the plan was announced in mid-October 1951, Hendren recognized that the proposed algorithm placed students at a disadvantage if they did not get their first choice of hospitals. Facing resistance at every step from the National Inter-association Committee on Internships and putting his standing at Harvard Medical School at risk, Hendren led a nationwide movement of medical students to change the procedure to one that favored students' choices. Their success <1 month later established in the inaugural match the fundamental ethic of today's National Resident Matching Program to favor students' preferences at every step of the process.

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