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Speaking to a gathering of approximately 100 students last night at the Medical School, the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning group International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) emphasized the importance of social involvement in medical education.
The speech, which was co-sponsored by the IPPNW and the Soviet-American Medical Student Exchange (SAMSE), is part of a week-long program devoted to bringing about the exchange of ideas between a visiting group of Soviet medical students and students at the Medical School.
"We doctors have an enormous responsibility to heal humankind," said the speaker, Dr. Bernard Lown. "I believe that each of you has the capability to prevent nuclear war by not being afraid of social involvement."
Lown's speech focused on the importance of medical students taking an active interest in world issues in order to give a wider perspective to their commitment to promote health and life.
Criticizing a poll in which only one percent of respondents thought that nuclear war was likely, Lown also emphasized the importance of working to prevent a nuclear war.
"If global peace is breaking out and we are now `comrades' of the Russians, then why are we modernizing our weapons and making them more destructive?" Lown asked his audience of mostly SAMSE participants and Harvard students.
Lown said that the total defense spending predicted for the four years of the Bush administration is over one trillion dollars. He added that out of every income-tax dollar that the government receives, 55 cents are devoted to military spending, as opposed to only two cents each to education and housing.
"No solution to any of our other problems can be reached until some of the money going to the military is diverted," Lown said.
Citing education as the most important area to which money must be devoted, Lown emphasized that education, especially for women and mothers, is crucial to eliminating health problems in underdeveloped countries.
"When women can read and write, infant mortality rates go down, population growth slows down, and life expectancy goes up," Lown said. Money that countries such as India and South Africa are currently appropriating for military spending could be used to educate their populations and thereby address grave medical concerns, Lown said.
Soviet student activists can play a crucial role in stopping the nuclear arms race, Lown said, adding that currently the Soviet Union is more open to input from students than it has been in the past.
"Soviet students are a vital resource right now," Lown told the Soviet medical students present at the talk. "You've got to get out there and demand a voice."
Lown, a clinical fellow in medicine at the Medical School, accepted the Nobel Prize for his group in 1985. He is also a Gandhi Peace Prize recipient.
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