How medical students become doctors: a study of one class from entrance to graduation. Coombs followed the class of 1971 in an unidentified Northeast medical school and his neatly organized findings suggest a picture with few surprises. Often arriving with unrealistic expectations of what doctors can do, medical students undergo a process of socialization which quite adequately increases technical competence but tends to ignore emotional aspects of the experience. Most find the first two years of academic lectures irritating and unsatisfying--about 40% consider quitting. The subsequent two years of clinical clerkships involve a series of developmental tasks and pyramiding responsibilities which stir up anxieties but, when mastered, contribute to feelings of confidence and independence. Role-modeling is more influential than didactic instruction--""the ability to handle patients stratifies doctors in terms of clinical effectiveness""--and most students come to share certain irreverent images of medical specialists which strongly affect their own choices. Coombs covers the four years with a comfortable mix of dry statistics, cautious generalizations, and tangy quotations, with full recognition of emotional milestones and hierarchical nuances.