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Dr. Tomaino's Blog

Sir William Osler's legacy

August 18th, 2012
Beyond the historical record of legendary contributions to the field of medicine, Sir William Osler has been mythologized as the example of what a caring physician should be. In his era, curing disease was often not possible, thus "the physician" cared for the ailing patient as he/she was ushered to the next life. Indeed, much of what has been written about Dr Osler highlights how effective he was at bringing his dying patients peace and dignity.

“The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”

Sir William Osler

In 2012, technology and science are much more advanced than in the early 1800s---but the fundamental needs of our patients, as human beings, has not changed. Though seduced, arguably, by the rewards of practice--accolades and awards-- the most gifted in our profession may unknowingly lose their way, along the way, in terms of appreciating the persistent needs of our patients.

I know I have probably been guilty of this---figuring that my commitment would never be questioned so long as I delivered expert care. What I understand now more than ever is that what I deliver can not be reduced to a procedure performed, or a recommendation made.
Rather, my contributions and accomplishments must be measured not merely on the basis of my expertise and experience, but on how truly caring I am. The self awareness and empathy to make good on that commitment require a life long willingness to constantly grow and improve, as a listener and communicator.
From my perspective, the rewards of a truly satisfied patient trump accolades, titles, or other self-serving measures of competence. Sir William Osler's story is yet another example of how we can be enriched by appreciating historical figures and events.





August 19th, 2012 @ 1:46 am

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