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Medicine: a Trade or a Profession?

September 23rd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

September 21,2009, The Winnipeg Free press published an editorial titled “Of Light, Of Liberty, Of Learning”  (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/editorials/of-light-of-liberty-of-learning-59978307.html). The edtorial  responds to a presentation made by President Barnard. Incuded in  the editorial  comments are the following:

“Universities are not technical schools, although they may teach things like medicine, engineering and law — in fact, they should be the places that one goes to learn those important trades”

The editorial goes on to state:

“Neither are they places where people lollygag about, occasionally reading romantic poets or discussing their adolescent theories of existentialism, although a little knowledge of both romantic poetry and existential philosophy are useful things for even doctors or lawyers to acquire.” (underline is mine)

To this point our blog has been mostly informative. It is my hope that we may explore points of view raised by this editorial, and stimulate some comments.

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  1. J.A.Paterson
    October 2nd, 2009 at 18:49 | #1

    Thank you Dr Sandham for reminding us of this editorial stumble. I wondered at first why no one in any of the professions listed as “trades” wrote to offer a divergent viewpoint to readers of the Free Press. Then I realized that letters-to-the-Editor were likely sent but not published. Topics pertaining to education, and especially to science, just don’t seem to meet editorial criteria for “sexiness”.
    Sir William Osler would not have been amused. He may have sighed a bit sadly, and gone back to the art and science of helping patients.

  2. Malathi Raghavan
    October 3rd, 2009 at 16:00 | #2

    Tony Miksanek, M.D., has a commentary titled ‘Seven Reasons Why Doctors Write’ on the Literature, Arts and Medicine Blog (http://medhum.med.nyu.edu/blog/?p=151). Although his commentary arrives at your discussion from a different starting point, I see the gist of his article (and the comments it generates) as an affirmation of the statement underlined above.

    Miksanek’s last reason ‘notoriety’ may come across, to some, as insincere and calculating at first glance. However, looked at from another level, it seems to have a larger purpose. Allow me to illustrate the nuance using an example from the field of Veterinary Medicine. In any freshman class of a veterinary medical program, people will be hard-pressed to find students who can rattle off the names of at least 10 veterinarians from history or from contemporary public service who contributed to the welfare of humans and/or animals. But ask them who the most famous veterinarian in the world is and the answer will overwhelmingly be James Alfred Wight (1916-1995). Under his pen name, James Herriot, Wight published several poignant (and humorous) books about rural veterinary practice and life in Yorkshire. At first, writing did not come easy to him. He worked very hard to find what has now become his trade-mark style. In this way, long after he retired from practice, he inspired, and will continue to inspire, the youth (even urban youth) in several countries across the world to take up veterinary medicine for their chosen profession.

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