This paper contributes to the evolving body of literature diagnosing the ‘business-like’ transformation of American medicine by historicising and recuperating the concepts of medical leadership and the corporation. In an analysis of the evolving uses of ‘leadership’ in medical literature, we argue that the term’s appeal derives from its ability to productively articulate the inevitable conflicts that arise between competing values in corporations, and so should be understood as a response to the neoliberal corporation’s false resolutions of conflict according to the single value of profit (or consumer welfare for the business-like non-profit). Drawing on mid-century theories of the corporation to reframe dominant social histories of medical corporatisation, we go on to argue that large medical institutions are productive sites for deliberation over the medical profession’s social contract. Our primary case study for this longer historical and broader theoretical argument is the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the world’s foremost treatment hospital for patients with cancer. We hold that the historical trajectory that led to MD Anderson’s exceptional but exemplary place in the evolution of American corporate medicine is reflective of historical trends in the practice.
- Cancer care
- cultural history
- physician narratives
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Contributors Both JM and BR have contributed to the writing and revision of this article. BR was responsible for the content regarding the history of MD Anderson and for searching its archives. JM was responsible for the analyses of leadership and corporations. Both contributed significantly to the analyses of for-profit medicine and non-profit organisations becoming 'business-like'. Both have worked on and reviewed the final version of the article.
Funding This study was funded by the Rice University Humanities Research Center's Public Humanities Initiative.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.