Friday, 27 July 2018

Great Canadian Physicians -Sir William Osler.

Dr.William Osler.

    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.".
    This is 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 chloroform. "
    "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. 

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