The Flexner Report of 1910 and Its Impact on Complementary and Alternative Medicine


America experienced a genuinely vast development of biomedical science in the early decades of the twentieth century, which in turn impacted the community of academic psychiatry and changed the way in which clinical and basic research approaches in psychiatry were conceptualized. This development was largely based on the restructuring of research universities in both of the USA and Canada following the influential report of Johns Hopkins-trained science administrator and politician Abraham Flexner (1866–1959). Flexner’s report written in commission for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in Washington, DC, also had a major influence on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in psychiatry throughout the 20th century. This paper explores the lasting impact of Flexner’s research published on modern medicine and particularly on what he interpreted as the various forms of health care and psychiatric treatment that appeared to compete with the paradigm of biomedicine. We will particularly draw attention to the serious effects of the closing of so many CAM-oriented hospitals, colleges, and medical teaching programs following to the publication of the Flexner Report in 1910.


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