Let him be one whose patients are willing to die in his hands, not one whom they go to for trifles, and leave as soon as they are in danger, and who can say, therefore, that he never loses a patient.
Do not leave the ranks of what is called the regular profession, unless you wish to go farther and fare worse, for you may be assured that its members recognize no principle which hinders their accepting any remedial agent proved to be useful, no matter from what quarter it comes. The difficulty is that the stragglers, organized under fantastic names in pretentious associations, or lurking in solitary dens behind doors left ajar, make no real contributions to the art of healing. When they bring forward a remedial agent like chloral, like the bromide of potassium, like ether, used as an anesthetic, they will find no difficulty in procuring its recognition.
Some of you will probably be more or less troubled by the pretensions of that parody of mediaeval theology which finds its dogma of hereditary depravity in the doctrine of psora, its miracle of transubstantiation in the mystery of its triturations and dilutions, its church in the people who have mistaken their century, and its priests in those who have mistaken their calling. You can do little with persons who are disposed to accept these curious medical superstitions. The saturation-point of individual minds with reference to evidence, and especially medical evidence, differs, and must always continue to differ, very widely. There are those whose minds are satisfied with the decillionth dilution of a scientific proof. No wonder they believe in the efficacy of a similar attenuation of bryony or pulsatilla. You have no fulcrum you can rest upon to lift an error out of such minds as these, often highly endowed with knowledge and talent, sometimes with genius, but commonly richer in the imaginative than the observing and reasoning faculties.
Let me return once more to the young graduate. Your relations to your professional brethren may be a source of lifelong happiness and growth in knowledge and character, or they may make you wretched and end by leaving you isolated from those who should be your friends and counsellors. The life of a physician becomes ignoble when he suffers himself to feed on petty jealousies and sours his temper in perpetual quarrels. You will be liable to meet an uncomfortable man here and there in the profession,--one who is so fond of being in hot water that it is a wonder all the albumen in his body is not coagulated. There are common barrators among doctors as there are among lawyers, --stirrers up of strife under one pretext and another, but in reality because they like it. They are their own worst enemies, and do themselves a mischief each time they assail their neighbors. In my student days I remember a good deal of this Donnybrook-Fair style of quarrelling, more especially in Paris, where some of the noted surgeons were always at loggerheads, and in one of our lively Western cities. Soon after I had set up an office, I had a trifling experience which may serve to point a moral in this direction. I had placed a lamp behind the glass in the entry to indicate to the passer-by where relief from all curable infirmities was to be sought and found. Its brilliancy attracted the attention of a devious youth, who dashed his fist through the glass and upset my modest luminary. All he got by his vivacious assault was that he left portions of integument from his knuckles upon the glass, had a lame hand, was very easily identified, and had to pay the glazier's bill. The moral is that, if the brilliancy of another's reputation excites your belligerent instincts, it is not worth your while to strike at it, without calculating which of you is likely to suffer most, if you do.
You may be assured that when an ill-conditioned neighbor is always complaining of a bad taste in his mouth and an evil atmosphere about him, there is something wrong about his own secretions. In such cases there is an alterative regimen of remarkable efficacy: it is a starvation-diet of letting alone. The great majority of the profession are peacefully inclined. Their pursuits are eminently humanizing, and they look with disgust on the personalities which intrude themselves into the placid domain of an art whose province it is to heal and not to wound.
The intercourse of teacher and student in a large school is necessarily limited, but it should be, and, so far as my experience goes, it is, eminently cordial and kindly. You will leave with regret, and hold in tender remembrance, those who have taken you by the hand at your entrance on your chosen path, and led you patiently and faithfully, until the great gates at its end have swung upon their hinges, and the world lies open before you. That venerable oath to which I have before referred bound the student to regard his instructor in the light of a parent, to treat his children like brothers, to succor him in his day of need. I trust the spirit of the oath of Hippocrates is not dead in the hearts of the students of to-day. They will remember with gratitude every earnest effort, every encouraging word, which has helped them in their difficult and laborious career of study. The names they read on their diplomas will recall faces that are like family-portraits in their memory, and the echo of voices they have listened to so long will linger in their memories far into the still evening of their lives.
One voice will be heard no more which has been familiar to many among you. It is not for me, a stranger to these scenes, to speak his eulogy. I have no right to sadden this hour by dwelling on the deep regrets of friendship, or to bid the bitter tears of sorrow flow afresh. Yet I cannot help remembering what a void the death of such a practitioner as your late instructor must leave in the wide circle of those who leaned upon his counsel and assistance in their hour of need, in a community where he was so widely known and esteemed, in a school where he bore so important a part. There is no exemption from the common doom for him who holds the shield to protect others. The student is called from his bench, the professor from his chair, the practitioner in his busiest period hears a knock more peremptory than any patient's midnight summons, and goes on that unreturning visit which admits of no excuse, and suffers no delay. The call of such a man away from us is the bereavement of a great family. Nor can we help regretting the loss for him of a bright and cheerful earthly future; for the old age of a physician is one of the happiest periods of his life. He is loved and cherished for what he has been, and even in the decline of his faculties there are occasions when his experience is still appealed to, and his trembling hands are looked to with renewing hope and trust, as being yet able to stay the arm of the destroyer.
But if there is so much left for age, how beautiful, how inspiring is the hope of youth! I see among those whom I count as listeners one by whose side I have sat as a fellow-teacher, and by whose instructions I have felt myself not too old to profit. As we borrowed him from your city, I must take this opportunity of telling you that his zeal, intelligence, and admirable faculty as an instructor were heartily and universally recognized among us. We return him, as we trust, uninjured, to the fellow-citizens who have the privilege of claiming him as their own.
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