The medium of video means that the literal faces of the next generation of American medicine can also be presented and subtlety shaped by the AMA and AAMC through “I am a Doctor”. The doctor’s face as embodied by the actor playing Dr. Judd is a tired and careworn one but also strong and trustworthy. It is also Caucasian and male as are almost all the visages that appear in the videos. In 1955, a mere 5 percent of medical school students were women and less than 3 percent were African American and this reality is well reflected10. Despite the fact that the American Medical Association spearheaded the push for female physicians as early as 1868, only one female medical student is presented and then only extremely briefly in the video series. This dearth is further underscored by assertions like “there are no boy doctors only men.” Where women appear it is prominently in the role of support or incentive to the aspiring man of medicine.
When the prospect of the admiration of the “the biggest, blue eyes in the world” is presented as a positive exigency of medical school acceptance the prospect that one possessing them is a potential classmate or colleague is for example never even subtlety hinted at. The noble sacrifice of the doctor’s wife who shares her husband with those in desperate need of his skill is in contrast made readily apparent. This is not to say women are consigned entirely to the domestic sphere. The value of a working wife to the financially struggling medical student is made abundantly clear. In terms of representation minority physicians fair no better than women, in fact they are wholly absent. The AMA’s ideal doctor appears very much to reflect the ideal 1950’s American man; Caucasian, conventionally attractive and heterosexual with the associated values of family and community.
This representation of physical ideal carries still more unfortunate undertones when the juxtaposition of intellectual and socioeconomic contexts of future doctors as portrayed by the video as considered. The future doctor is portrayed as intrinsically superior to their fellows. They should, even as a teenager, possess uncommon maturity displaying the self-awareness and forethought to decide on a life in medicine and their suitability for it while still in high school or at the very latest early in college8. They must additionally prove themselves knowledgeable about their society, be personable and crucially view themselves as elect. Getting into medical school is portrayed as a challenge only if “you are a dolt”, for those who are worthy the process should pose no difficulty9. Finally, the future doctor must be willing to make enormous sacrifices financial, emotional and in their relationships to more effectively conduct the war against disease. The successful medical student embodies more traditional concepts of exclusivity as well. It is explicitly stated that a student without significant family support will be unable to afford medical education even with the availability of scholarships and loans. Aspiring doctors who cannot rely on their families for pecuniary support are strongly urged to consider an alternative career.
Medicine in this era seemingly constitutes a new aristocracy nominally built upon merit yet simultaneously drawing its ranks almost exclusively from the scions of the professional class. By elevating physicians above their fellow men, the AMA officials who organized and guided them placed themselves on still more exalted heights.