Book: Dean Winternitz: Yale Medical School’s Passionate Humanist

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Dean Winternitz: Yale Medical School’s Passionate Humanist

Dr. Howard Spiro, professor emeritus of internal medicine, and Priscilla Waters Norton

(Program for Humanities in Medicine/Yale University)

In this biography of Dr. Milton Winternitz, dean of the School of Medicine from 1920 to 1935, Spiro and Norton examine the life and work of the man who turned the school from a local medical training center into the national and international research institution it has become.

Winternitz simplified the educational program, certain that graduate students, freed from compulsory attendance at lectures, would learn for themselves. He established the nursing school, the psychiatry department, and supported the epidemiology and public health activities. He instituted a full-time salaried academic faculty. But his real love lay in humanizing the medical curriculum. In his short-lived Institute for Human Relations, he hoped to bring Yale Law and Divinity Schools to the medical area, and to encourage a more humanistic approach to medical training. If he had succeeded, medical students would become science-based but fully aware of the psychological and social origin of much of their complaints. In order to fulfill his ambitions and remain at his post, however, he yielded to the prejudices of the time by limiting the admission of Jews, Italian Catholics, and African Americans to the medical school.

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