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Dancing A Waltz With Family Medicine: A Personal Narrative

Howard Tandeter

One morning during my third year of medical school (1976) I woke up listening to the radio and, instead of the usual music they were playing military marches... That was the classical sign of a coup d’état (nothing unusual in Argentina). But this one was different, since it marked the beginning of the “Dirty War”, a period of state-sponsored violence in which tens of thousands of young people “disappeared” (tortured and killed by the military Junta), becoming one of the darkest chapters of the history of that country. Since the following years until my graduation were very tense and fearsome (fear of “disappearing”), I didn’t want to stay in Argentina and decided to emigrate. So, in 1980 I moved to Israel without still knowing “what to do when I grow up” ...

After graduating I had a hard time deciding which medical specialty to choose. I liked Obstetrics and Gynecology, but didn’t like to perform surgery. I liked Psychiatry, but wanted also to be involved in clinical medicine. Loved research but not without clinical practice, and didn’t like to do inpatient work in the hospital. Finally, after my internship, I discovered a “new” discipline called Family Medicine (FM) that included all that I liked. There was nothing similar at that time in Argentina (residency programs in FM started to spread only after 1990), and in Israel it was in its early stages of development. In the US the specialty American Boards approved Family Practice as a new specialty in 1969, and n the UK not until 1976 did parliament approved legislation requiring doctors who wanted to become principals in general practice to complete vocational training. 

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