Engaging the Field
This book is about the meaning of physician competence in medical practice, medical politics, and medical education in the United States in the late twentieth century. Its central theme is an exploration of competence as a core symbol in the culture of American medicine and an examination of what competence means to individual physicians and to the profession at large. Rather than pursue a single ethnographic story or linear argument, this book approaches the study of physician competence as a puzzle to be assembled from several ethnographic and analytic perspectives. This chapter concludes with an analytic frame for disaggregating these multiple voices and for aiding the thinking about the social contexts and political purposes reflected in these distinct discourses on medical competence.
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