Research Foundation, should Congress choose to establish one (this notion later evolved into the National Science Foundation), or through a direct federal subsidy.4

At the April conference on postwar medical research, DeBakey's idea received a favorable response, both from key government officials and from private practitioners. General Menninger, who, like DeBakey himself, would soon return to civilian practice, pointed to the need for such follow-up activities in psychiatry. He noted that little was known about the long-term effects of such conditions as battle fatigue. Barnes Woodhall mentioned that studies had already begun regarding soldiers who had received operations for peripheral nerve injuries. Others cited the value of the work that could be done in such fields as the treatment of epilepsy and cancer.

Dr. Paul Magnuson, assistant medical director of the Veterans Administration medical program, endorsed the proposal and noted that the VA was prepared to supply funds to carry it out. Dr. Robert Dyer, director of the National Institutes of Health—which were just beginning their period of tremendous postwar growth—became enthusiastic over the chance "to follow a whole generation of men and trace their life history." He called it an "unparalleled" opportunity. Louis Dublin agreed that "there was nothing comparable to this opportunity in the entire world." To miss it would be "utterly tragic.'' Indeed, a similar discussion had taken place after the First World War, but the opportunity had been lost.5 Dublin's comments underscored the desire not to repeat the mistakes that had been made after the World War I. Rather than simply return to the status quo ante as it had done then, American medicine would now put to use the clinical experience of the Second World War.

Most of the attendees realized that a new type of relationship between the government and the medical profession would govern medical research in the postwar era. Dublin, a vice-president of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, noted that there were projects, such as the one DeBakey was proposing, that were simply beyond the scope of private companies. What his company could do was small compared to what could be done with the military records that, as one doctor noted, covered 10 to 12 percent of the population. Dublin also warned that the work would have to be carried out by "highly skilled personnel" and not by the "ordinary physician." He implied that this effort would require the assistance of statisticians and would fall into the domain of academic medical centers.

Dr. Churchill selected three participants to draft a resolution that would express the sense of the conference. With unanimity and with the Veterans Administration eager to have the National Research Council assume an advisory role in its postwar research program, the group passed the resolution immediately. Urging the nation to seize an "unparalleled opportunity," the group recommended that the NRC appoint a committee "to explore the most effective means by which a medical research program ... can be carried out, to the end that the

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement