Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2013

Document Type

Restricted Paper

Terms of Use

© 2013 Tori M. Shepard. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) wholly transformed the Chinese healthcare system. Accusing hospitals and medical schools of favoring the urban elite, putting too much emphasis on education, research and specialization, and too little emphasis on treating the common ailments of the people, Mao Zedong (1893-1976) enacted a period of significant change and disruption in medical treatment. Among his directives were purging the leadership of the Ministry of Public Health, shortening medical school curriculums, implementing traditional medicine practice, replacing doctors' authority with party member oversight, and famously sending barefoot doctors, as well as urban doctors, to serve in remote, rural areas. This paper will examine these momentous changes to the urban and rural medical spheres via the experiences of a Shanghainese doctor between 1966 and 1969, proposing that while rural areas may have benefited from Communist Party reforms, political interference punished and stagnated urban hospitals.


Honorable mention for the Alice L. Crossley Prize in Asian Studies in 2014