Arnold S. Relman

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Arnold S. Relman
Born (1923-06-17)June 17, 1923
Queens, New York
Died June 17, 2014(2014-06-17) (aged 91)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Fields Internal medicine, social medicine
Institutions The New England Journal of Medicine
Education Cornell University
Alma mater College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University
Known for Editor of The New England Journal of Medicine

Arnold Seymour Relman (June 17, 1923 – June 17, 2014) — known as Bud Relman to intimates — was an American internist and professor of medicine and social medicine. He was editor of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) from 1977 to 1991, where he instituted two important policies: one asking the popular press not to report on articles before publication and another requiring authors to disclose conflicts of interest.[1] He wrote extensively on medical publishing and reform of the U.S. health care system, advocating non-profit delivery of single-payer health care. Relman ended his career as professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.[2]


Relman was born in Queens, New York, in 1923.

He was educated at Cornell University and the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He was first professor at Boston University School of Medicine, then Frank Wister Thomas professor of medicine and chair of the department of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (now the Perelman School of Medicine), and finally a professor at Harvard School of Medicine.

Relman was editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation from 1962 to 1967.[3] He was editor of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) from 1977 to 1991.

Relman was the only person to have been president of the American Federation for Clinical Research, the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians.[1] In 1988 he was awarded Honorary Fellowship by the New York University School of Medicine.[4]

Relman died in Cambridge, Massachusetts of melanoma in 2014 at the age of 91.[1]


On for-profit health care[edit]

Relman was an uncompromising critic of the American health care system as a profit-driven industry. He coined the term "medical–industrial complex". He deplored the increasing treatment of health care in the US as a "market commodity", distributed according to a patient's ability to pay, not medical need. The solution, in his view, would come only through two fundamental structural reforms: (1) implementation of a single-payer financing system, like Medicare, without investor-owned private insurance companies, and (2) provision of a non-profit delivery system, consisting of multi-specialty groups of physicians paid by salary within a pre-set budget.[5]

In 1999, Relman participated in a Harvard Medical School debate on the subject of unionization of physicians and for-profit health care. His stance was described:

"Although he believes that managed care is here to stay, the current 'marketplace' state of health care is not viable. In order for the system to work, it is going to have to be 'not-for-profit, community-based, and run by doctors and local health care institutions with the support of community groups.' Keeping the big picture in mind, Relman said, 'Unions are unnecessary in a not-for-profit sector.'"[6]

On alternative medicine[edit]

Relman was a decided skeptic regarding the Alternative, Complementary and Integrative Medicine movement. In 1998 he wrote:

There are not two kinds of medicine, one conventional and the other unconventional, that can be practiced jointly in a new kind of "integrative medicine." Nor...are there two kinds of thinking, or two ways to find out which treatments work and which do not. In the best kind of medical practice, all proposed treatments must be tested objectively. In the end, there will only be treatments that pass that test and those that do not, those that are proven worthwhile and those that are not. Can there be any reasonable "alternative"?[7]



  1. ^ a b c Martin, Douglas (June 21, 2014). "Dr. Relman, medical editor and health system critic, dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-06-23. 
  2. ^ Harvard Catalyst: The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center. "Harvard Catalyst Profiles: Arnold Seymour Relman, M.D.". The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Retrieved 2014-06-23. 
  3. ^ Insel, Paul A.; Kornfeld, Stuart; Majerus, Philip W.; Marks, Andrew R.; et al. (2004). "Blasts from the past". Journal of Clinical Investigation 114 (8): 1017–33. doi:10.1172/JCI23321. PMC 522273. PMID 15489944. 
  4. ^ Farber, Saul J. (November 1988). "Conferring of Honorary Fellowship upon Arnold S. Relman, M.D.". Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 64 (8): 887–90. PMC 1629363. PMID 3072042. 
  5. ^ Angell, Marcia (2014), "On Arnold Relman (1923-2014)", New York Review of Books, (14 Aug issue).
  6. ^ Chu, Catherine (December 3, 1999). "Panelists debate if doctors should unionize". Focus (Harvard Medical School). 
  7. ^ *"A trip to Stonesville: Some notes on Andrew Weil". The New Republic 219 (24). December 14, 1998. p. 28. 

Further reading[edit]