White Coat, Clenched Fist

The Political Education of an American Physician
Fitzhugh Mullan, M.D.
A doctor tells his own behind-the-scenes story of the making of a medical man and the disintegration of an American myth


In the sixties, Fitzhugh Mullan was an activist in the civil rights struggle. While in medical school, Mullan was shocked by gaps in what the students learned, and the lack of humanity in the classroom. Later, Dr. Mullan was outraged at the conditions he discovered when he began to practice. He helped found the Student Health Organization, organized the Controversial Medical Collective at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, and struggled to offer improved medical care to those who needed it most and could afford it least.

This landmark book charts the state of medical school and practices in the 1960s and 70s. This new edition is updated with a preface in which Dr. Mullan reflects on the changes in the medical field over the last thirty-plus years.

Fitzhugh Mullan is Murdock Head Professor of Medicine and Health Policy at George Washington University. He worked at the U.S. Public Health Service where he attained the rank of Assistant Surgeon General (1991-1996). Dr. Mullan is the co-founder of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship and the author of numerous books, including Plagues and Politics: The Story of the United States Public Health Service, and his most recent book, Narrative Matters: The Power of the Personal Essay in Health Policy.

Praise / Awards

  • "This most welcome republication of the eloquent memoir of a Sixties activist medical student becoming a caring physician is timely. It confronts all the contradictions of medical mission and medical arrogance and, ultimately, is Hamletian. The question is: can moral conviction prevail or not?....An ennobling, engrossing autobiography."
    —Quentin Young, MD, former President of the American Public Health Association, and National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program

  • "This reissue of White Coat, Clenched Fist, the marvelous memoir depicting the shaping of a doctor in the seething sixties, delivers valuable lessons to a twenty-first century audience. If it is to be fixed, our chaotic system of health care must recapture Fitzhugh Mullan's altruism and commitment to social justice. His remarkable journey, both personal and professional, takes the reader through far reaches of community and government. The reward: a deeper understanding of health issues and solutions."
    —Studs Terkel, author of Hard Times, Working, Race, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Good War

  • "White Coat, Clenched Fist is the work of a skilled professional writer who describes people, places, events, and ideas with precision, grace, and humor...this book is a classic. Persons who were students or professionals in the 1960s can re-experience these years in Mullan's fine prose. Younger colleagues can find evidence that each generation has its own triumphs and makes its own mistakes."
    Journal of American Medical Association

Look Inside


Introduction     xxi
1. Mississippi Nightwatch     3
2. Student of the Body, Captive of the System     20
3. Politics and Medicine     41
4. Slave to the Page Operator     68
5. The Lincoln Project     91
6. The Butcher Shop     110
7. Seize the Hospital to Serve the People     139
8. Collectivism     152
9. After the Fall     176
10. Philosopher-kings or Workers     189
11. My Butcher Doesn't Believe I'm a Doctor     213

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Review JAMA | 12/5/2007

Product Details

  • 6.125 x 9.25.
  • 248pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2006
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03197-9

Add to Cart
  • $24.95 U.S.