Examining an uplifting and unexpected outcome of a dark period in American history, this book shows how the Vietnam War made the National Institutes of Health an unparalleled training ground for trailblazing scientists.
As the ground war in Vietnam escalated in the late 1960s, the US government leveraged the so-called doctor draft to secure adequate numbers of medical personnel in the armed forces. Among newly minted physicians’ few alternatives to military service was the Clinical Associate Training Program at the National Institutes of Health. Though only a small percentage of applicants were accepted, the elite program launched an unprecedented number of remarkable scientific careers that would revolutionize medicine at the end of the twentieth century.
Medal Winners recounts this overlooked chapter and unforeseen byproduct of the Vietnam War through the lives of four former NIH clinical associates who would go on to become Nobel laureates. Raymond S. Greenberg traces their stories from their pre-NIH years and apprenticeships through their subsequent Nobel Prize–winning work, which transformed treatment of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Greenberg shows how the Vietnam draft unintentionally ushered in a golden era of research by bringing talented young physicians under the tutelage of leading scientists and offers a lesson in what it may take to replicate such a towering center of scientific innovation as the NIH in the 1960s and 1970s.