Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Characteristics of a Physician

The introduction to Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine has this beautiful excerpt from he first edition of the book in which the original authors aim to sum up the essential physician. The current edition apologises about the seeming chauvinism of the original text and reminds us that women physicians were still an oddity back then. I thought a little affirmative action was indicated so here's a re-edited yet continuingly gender biased version of the same.

The Characteristics of a Physician

No greater opportunity, responsibility or obligation can fall to the lot of a human being than to become a physician. In the care of suffering she needs technical skill, scientific knowledge and human understanding. She who uses these with courage, with humility and with wisdom will provide a unique service for her fellow human and will build an enduring edifice of character within herself. The physician should ask of her destiny no more than this, she should be content with no less.

Tact, sympathy and understanding are expected of the physician, for the patient is no mere collection of symptoms, signs, disordered functions, damaged organs and disturbed emotions. She is human, fearful and hopeful, seeking relief, help and reassurance. To the physician as to the anthropologist, nothing human is strange or repulsive. The misanthropic may be a smart diagnostician of organic disease, but she can scarcely hope to succeed as a physician. The true physician has a Shakespearean breadth of interest in the wise and the foolish, the proud and the humble, the stoic hero and the whining rogue. She cares for people.

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