White Coat, Clenched Fist: The Political Education of an American Physician


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 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
  • 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


Author information

Fitzhugh Mullan was Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health 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 was 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 Big Doctoring in America: Profiles in Primary Care.

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