Long long ago when I used to interview
applicants for medical school I was often amazed that when I asked a
candidate to name one great Canadian physician, how many of them started
at me blankly and could not even make a guess. There have been many
greats, but Sir William Osler, internationally renowned for changing
the face of medical education in Canada, the United States and Great
Britain and in the world, should surely have been known to any candidate
aspiring to become a physician in Canada. Those giants of medicine on
whose shoulders we stand, , of which Osler was certainly one, must be
turning over in their graves at the direction their beloved profession
has taken. I am, and I'm not even dead yet!
Let me quote Osler to
attempt to convey to you what embarking on a career in medicine meant
in those days and into the days when I chose medicine as a career.
"The good physician treats the disease, the great physician treats the
patient who has the disease". That, some hundred years before the
College of Family Physicians began touting that concept as though it
was something new.
Another: "The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism".
"Medicine is learned by the bedside and not in the classroom. Let
not your concepts of disease come from words heard in the lecture room
or read from the book. See and then reason and compare and control."
Well, I venture to think this exceptional man, who established the
Department of Medicine at McGill, who was a founder of Johns Hopkins
Hospital, world famous for treatment, teaching and research and
later professor at Edinburgh and and then Oxford, would have been finished
before he began, had be existed in our time.
He said this: "The
practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a
calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head.
Often the best part of your work will have nothing to do with potions
and powders, but with the exercise of the strong upon the weak, of the
righteous upon the wicked, of the wise upon the foolish.".
a time in which everyone considers themselves to be an expert, no
matter how little they know about a field, under the egregious
misapprehension that all opinions are equal and should be treated with
equal respect. Anyone who is not a total moron knows that isn't so.
Unfortunately, the fear of confronting ignorance and the desire to
re-write history politically correctly is a major contributor to the
accelerating decline we are experiencing in the developed world.
Sir William said many wise and true things some of which today would
bring about the rapid termination of his career, no matter how brilliant
he might have been.
"The uselessness of men above 60 years of
age and the incalculable benefit it would be in commercial, political
and professional life if they were to stop work at this age ....the plot
hinges on the admirable scheme of a college into which at sixty, men
retired , for a year of contemplation, before a peaceful departure by
"The desire to take medicine is perhaps the greatest feature which distinguishes man from animals."
Many today, think that medical eponyms (naming a discovery or a treatment after the discoverer) should be abolished, that they just complicate medicine. I am strongly opposed to such action. The giants of medicine deserve to have their names and their contributions respected.