Observations Letter from New England

The torch has passed: G Gayle Stephens

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g3714 (Published 04 July 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g3714
  1. David Loxterkamp, medical director
  1. 1Seaport Community Health Center, Belfast, Maine 04915, USA
  1. david.loxterkamp{at}gmail.com

G Gayle Stephens helped shape family medicine in the US and was an inspiration to many

Earlier this year, G Gayle Stephens, died in his Alabama home at the age of 85. He was one of the earliest advocates and leading lights for a new specialty called family practice.

In the aftermath of the second world war, England adopted the National Health Service, which secured a future for primary care. Generalists in the United States fared worse. The war accelerated medicine’s technological advance, introduced pay differentials for specialists, and funded rapid expansions in postgraduate medical education. Few medical graduates were choosing general practice, and fewer still settled in areas of greatest need. General practice entered a death spiral.

The 1960s brought a shift in the political winds. Stephens founded a residency program in Wichita, Kansas, two years before the specialty was approved (1969), chaired its major academic organization, became the first dean of a medical school dedicated to primary care, and served as an associate editor for the specialty board’s journal.

But it is as a writer that we got to know him. I was a medical student in the late …

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