Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Dreams of the Founders of Family Medicine

Marcus Welby MD on the phoneLaurence Bauer has been an ardent, longtime advocate of family medicine. Among other things, he is Chief Executive Officer of the Family Medicine Education Consortium, a not-for-profit corporation that encourages and supports collaboration among Family Medicine Residency Programs and Departments of Family Medicine.

Larry and I met thanks to our mutual interest in Marcus Welby, MD. The practice of medicine has changed dramatically since Dr. Welby inspired doctors to become practitioners of family medicine. Yet each time I talk to Larry, I’m reminded of today’s dedicated students and physicians who want to practice comprehensive care with the same concern for the whole person that Welby expressed for his patients. This remains a timeless value of the medical profession, and for Larry, it’s important to keep that value alive in an age of narrow subspecialties and corporate medicine.

Family Medicine as a specialty (a three-year residency after medical school that includes the study of internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology, psychiatry, and geriatrics) emerged in the late 1960s. Those who initially endorsed family medicine wanted to change the direction of medical culture and influence its future. In the words that follow, Larry addresses those early visionaries. I’d like to thank him for allowing me to share his thoughts.

The Dreams of the Founders of Family Medicine

When poetry strays too far from music, it atrophies. When music strays too far from dance, it atrophies – Ezra Pound

As Family Practice emerged from the field of General Practice, it is important to realize that many in and out of medicine told the founders they would not succeed. The cynics believed that the dominant forces in medicine were too entrenched and there were too many societal forces working against the idea of a generalist renaissance in medicine. “Real” medicine of the future aspired to something more worthy. Real medicine involved care of hospitalized patients and was informed by the scientific and technological advances associated with sub-specialty medicine. Anyone could care for the people “out there”. But the founders dreamed big, bold dreams; they were a determined and visionary group. Read more


Guest post: Guilt-edged

Bananas with the Globe and MailToday was in need of humor. Here is another guest post from Kate Gilderdale (the original can be found here), who blogs at The Jaundiced View.

I found a website that lists (in a most unfortunate typeface) 29 types of humor. I’d say Kate’s writing combines – not always in the same post — wit, irony, understatement, repartee, satire, and that je ne sais quoi that can only be acquired by growing up in the British Isles. The word urbane also comes to mind. At any rate, I find that Kate’s posts brighten my days.


I know you can have Catholic guilt and Jewish guilt but you really don’t need religion to make you feel that whatever goes wrong is somehow your fault.

I feel guilty when I go through customs even though I am scrupulous about not bringing in anything illegal. I feel guilty when I go the dentist in case I haven’t flossed in the approved manner. I feel guilty when I try to defend my decision not to be tested for a disease I haven’t got, or don’t know I’ve got, or might have because at some point I’ll have to die of something – simply because I’d rather not know.

Now The Globe and Mail Life section reveals I could be guilty of hastening my demise by eating fruit. See The New Enemy in today’s paper, which warns that bananas are the arch enemy of the serious dieter and “that the high fructose content makes grapes and cherries as unhealthy as a plate of cookies.” Or not. Depending on which ‘experts’ you believe. Read more


Is a liberal arts education good preparation for being a doctor?

Dr. Joel AngI’ve written before about doctors and the arts. In 1980 the cultural historian G. S. Rousseau, citing the techo-scientific nature of modern medicine, claimed that doctors no longer maintained the rich tradition of physicians as humanists. “Until recently, physicians in Western European countries received broad, liberal educations, read languages and literature, studied the arts, were good musicians and amateur painters; by virtue of their financial privilege and class prominence they interacted with statesmen and high-ranking professionals, and continued in these activities through their careers.”

Contemporary evidence contradicts Rousseau’s claim that physicians are no longer practitioners and connoisseurs of the arts. We may not personally encounter a doctor with her cello or recognize one painting en plein air in the little free time doctors have these days, but doctors write books that ascend the best-seller list, and many more write thoughtful, provocative blog posts. The poetry of doctors is published in medical journals and is available online in modest chapbooks. Nearly every major city throughout the world has an orchestra staffed by the medical profession. And the American Physicians Art Association encourages and assists physicians with art organizations and exhibits.

Is a liberal arts education valuable to physicians?

I have many unanswered questions about doctors as practitioners of the arts. I’d particularly like to know if the long-standing tradition of physicians as humanists has changed over the past half century. Higher education has definitely changed since the mid-20th century. In particular, there’s less emphasis on the value of a liberal arts education. (On this, see the excellent book, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, by Martha Nussbaum.) Has this affected physicians, either in their satisfaction with their careers or in their understanding of patients? Read more