The authors consider physicians' tasks along two dimensions, one concerned with the kinds of skills applied to problems of human health (technical vs. interpersonal) and the other with the orientation the physician assumes in choosing problems to address (individual vs. population). This schema is employed to enumerate physicians' roles in addressing a continuum of health states from well to terminally ill. The resulting framework provides a focus for four sets of questions used to formulate four research questions to direct public policy regarding the roles of physicians: (1) What are the tasks medicine should accomplish? (2) Who is to do what? (3) How should physicians be trained? and (4) How can physicians' behavior be influenced for the good of individuals and society?