Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 75.djvu/69

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THE STUDY OF MEDICINE

THE PREPARATION FOR THE STUDY OF MEDICINE
By FREDERIC T. LEWIS, M.D.

HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL

Those who intend to study medicine are advised by the Medical Faculty to pay special attention to the study of Natural History, Chemistry, Physics, and the French and German languages, while in College.

This sentence of advice is contained in the catalogue of Harvard University issued in 1874. Thirty-two years later, at the dedication of the new buildings, it found more vigorous expression in the address of President Eliot.

Medical students should therefore have studied zoology and botany before beginning the study of medicine, and should have acquired some skill in the use of the scalpel and the microscope. It is absurd that anybody should begin with the human body the practise of dissection or of surgery; and, furthermore, it is wholly irrational that any young man who means to be a physician should not have mastered the elements of biology, chemistry and physics years before he enters a medical school. The mental constitution of the physician is essentially that of the naturalist; and the tastes and capacities of the naturalist reveal themselves, and, indeed, demand satisfaction long before twenty-one years of age, which is a good age for entering a medical school.

It is here assumed that these special studies form a part of the work for a bachelor's degree in arts or science, which the student has obtained before beginning his medical studies. Two groups of competent teachers of medicine dissent from this advice—those who believe that the bachelor's degree is unnecessary, since two years of special college work are sufficient; and those who consider that the degree should be required, but as a result of studies in literature, art, history and philosophy, rather than in biological science. Some physicians, therefore, send their sons to college with the advice, "Study nothing which bears upon medicine: you will have enough of that later"; and of those who have followed these directions, some have succeeded notably, both as practitioners and scientists. Because of this difference of opinion, an explanation of the relation of certain college courses to the study of medicine may be helpful to students.[1]

Zoology.—It has long been recognized by the public that zoology is not medicine. When Harvey studied the circulation of the blood, "he fell mightily in his practice." "Had anatomists only been as conversant with the dissection of the lower animals as they are with

  1. In preparing this account, assistance has been received from Drs. W. B. Cannon, L. J. Henderson, W. C. Sabine, E. E. Southard and L. W. Williams.