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McLean in his laboratory

Even while serving as director of the University Clinics, McLean found time to conduct research. His laboratory work during this period included the development of a method for measuring ion concentrations in blood.




McLean letter to Burton

Franklin C. McLean to Ernest D. Burton, January 22, 1924.

A full-time staff dedicated to medical investigation was essential to the medical program established by McLean at the University. He was concerned, though, that the pursuit of research not detract from the equally important need for thorough training of medical students.


Franklin C. McLean | Medicine

A hospital devoted to teaching and research remained an exciting but largely elusive goal for the first thirty years of the University's history. Although William Rainey Harper had forged an early affiliation with Rush Medical College in Chicago, he continued to hope for a Universitybased medical school.

After Harper's death, little progress was made toward establishing a medical program until 9916, when Abraham Flexner of the Rockefeller Foundation recommended that a medical school with its own hospital be established at Chicago. With strong support from the Rockefellers and the Billings family, planning moved forward only to be interrupted by the outbreak of war in Europe. By 1923, plans were well enough defined for President Burton to appoint Franklin C. McLean as the first director of the University of Chicago Clinics.

Although McLean was only thirty-five years old at the time, he had already planned, built, organized, and administered a complete medical school complex in China. Appointed by the Rockefeller Institute in 1916 to design "the prototype of an ideal institution of university medicine," McLean established high standards of teaching and research at the new Peking Union Medical College.

McLean came to Chicago hoping to replicate the Peking experience. Creating a firstrate medical school was a goal shared by McLean, the University, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Beyond that point, however, opinions diverged sharply. Even though his critics complained about its high cost, McLean insisted on a staff of full-time teachers and researchers in contrast to other medical schools where part-time instructors were drawn from the ranks of practicing physicians. He also encouraged the teaching and practice of psychoanalysis, a controversial position that won him little support from more empirically minded doctors and scientists.

The cost of maintaining a fulltime staff of teaching doctors and scientists was always burdensome, but by 1933 it had become crushing. Faced with mounting personal and administrative battles, McLean resigned as director and committed the rest of a long and productive career to research.

McLean was also known for his interest in the ethical and social dilemmas of modern health care. At a time of widespread segregation, McLean provided crucial assistance in helping to organize Provident Hospital in Chicago and eased the educational burdens of black physicians by creating an affiliation between Provident and the University of Chicago hospitals. Whether as an administrator, teacher, researcher, or social activist, McLean's career demonstrated his commitment to address social problems by improving the quality of health care.

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