Medicine - L'Envoi
( Originally Published 1905 )
I AM sure you all sympathize with me in the feelings which naturally almost overpower me on such an occasion. Many testimonials you have already given me of your affection and of your regard, but this far exceeds them all, and I am deeply touched that so many of you have come long distances, and at great inconvenience, to bid me God-speed in the new venture I am about to undertake. Par-don me, if I speak of myself, in spite of Montaigne's warning that one seldom speaks of oneself without some detriment to the person spoken of. Happiness comes to many of us and in many ways, but I can truly say that to few men has happiness come in so many forms as it has come to me. Why I know not, but this I do know, that I have not deserved more than others, and yet, a very rich abundance of it has been vouchsafed to me. I have been singularly happy in my friends, and for that I say "God be praised." I have had exceptional happiness in the profession of my choice, and I owe all of this to you. I have sought success in life, and if, as some one has said, this consists in getting what you want and being satisfied with it, I have found what I sought in the estimation, in the fellowship and friendship of the members of my profession.
I have been happy too in the public among whom I have worked—happy in my own land in Canada, happy here among you in the country of my adoption, from which I cannot part without bearing testimony to the nobility and the grace of character which I have found here in my colleagues. It fills me with joy to think that I have had not only the consideration and that ease of fellowship which means so much in life, but the warmest devotion on the part of my patients and their friends.
Of the greatest of all happiness I cannot speak—of my home. Many of you know it, and that is enough.
I would like to tell you how I came to this country. The men responsible for my arrival were Samuel W. Gross and Minis Hays of Philadelphia, who concocted the scheme in the Medical News office and asked James Tyson to write a letter asking if I would be a candidate for the professorship of Clinical Medicine in the University of Pennsylvania. That letter reached me at Leipsic, having been forwarded to me from Montreal by my friend Shepherd. So many pranks had I played on my friends there that, when the letter came, I felt sure it was a joke, so little did I think that I was one to be asked to succeed Dr. Pepper. It was several weeks before I ventured to answer that letter, fearing that Dr. Shepherd had perhaps surreptitiously taken a sheet of University of Pennsylvania notepaper on purpose to make the joke more certain. Dr. Mitchell cabled me to meet him in London, as he and his good wife were commissioned to "look me over," particularly with reference to personal conditions. Dr. Mitchell said there was only one way in which the breeding of a man suitable for such a position, in such a city as Philadelphia, could be tested:—give him cherry pie and see how he disposed of the stones. I had read of the trick before and disposed of them genteelly in my spoon—and got the Chair!
My affiliations with the profession in this country have been wide and to me most gratifying. At the University of Pennsylvania I found men whom I soon learned to love and esteem, and when I think of the good men who have gone—of Pepper, of Leidy, of Wormley, of Agnew, of Ashhurst—I am full of thankfulness to have known them before they were called to their long rest. I am glad to think that my dear friends Tyson and Wood are here still to join in a demonstration to me.
At Johns Hopkins University I found the same kindly feeling of friendship and my association with my colleagues there has been, as you all know, singularly happy and delightful.
With my fellow workers in the medical societies—in the American Medical Association, in the Association of American Physicians, in the Pediatric, Neurological and Physiological Societies—my relations have been most cordial and I would extend to them my heartfelt thanks for the kindness and consideration shown me during the past twenty years.
With the general practitioners throughout the country my relations have been of a peculiarly intimate character. Few men present, perhaps very few men in this country, have wandered so far and have seen in so many different sections the doctor at work. To all of these good friends who have given me their suffrage I express my appreciation and heartfelt thanks for their encouragement and support.
And lastly, my relations with my students—so many of whom I see here—have been of a close and most friendly character. They have been the inspiration of my work, and I may say truly, the inspiration of my life.
I have had but two ambitions in the profession: first, to make of myself a good clinical physician, to be ranked with the men who have done so much for the profession of this country—to rank in the class with Nathan Smith, Bartlett, James Jackson, Bigelow, Alonzo Clark, Metcalfe, W. W. Gerhard, Draper, Pepper, DaCosta and others. The chief desire of my life has been to become a clinician of the same stamp with these great men, whose names we all revere and who did so much good work for clinical medicine.
My second ambition has been to build up a great clinic on Teutonic lines, not on those previously followed here and in England, but on lines which have proved so successful on the Continent, and which have placed the scientific medicine of Germany in the forefront of the world. And if I have done anything to promote the growth of clinical medicine it has been in this direction, in the formation of a large clinic with a well organized series of assistants and house physicians and with proper laboratories in which to work at the intricate problems that confront us in internal medicine. For the opportunities which I have had at Johns Hopkins Hospital to carry out these ideas, I am truly thankful. How far I have been successful, or not, remains to be seen. But of this I am certain:—If there is one thing above another which needs a change in this country, it is the present hospital system in relation to the medical school. It has been spoken of by Dr. Jacobi but cannot be referred to too often. In every town of fifty thousand inhabitants a good model clinic could be built up, just as good as in smaller German cities, if only a self-denying ordinance were observed on the part of the profession and only one or two men given the control of the hospital service, not half a dozen. With proper assistants and equipment, with good clinical and pathological laboratories there would be as much clinical work done in this country as in Germany.
I have had three personal ideals. One to do the day's work well and not to bother about tomorrow. It has been urged that this is not a satisfactory ideal. It is; and there is not one which the student can carry with him into practice with greater effect. To it, more than to anything else, I owe whatever success I have had—to this power of settling down to the day's work and trying to do it well to the best of one's ability, and letting the future take care of itself.
The second ideal has been to act the Golden Rule, as far as in me lay, towards my professional brethren and towards the patients committed to my care.
And the third has been to cultivate such a measure of equanimity as would enable me to bear success with humility, the affection of my friends without pride and to be ready when the day of sorrow and grief came to meet it with the courage befitting a man.
What the future has in store for me, I cannot tell—you cannot tell. Nor do I care much, so long as I carry with me, as I shall, the memory of the past you have given me. Nothing can take that away.
I have made mistakes, but they have been mistakes of the head not of the heart. I can truly say, and I take upon myself to witness, that in my sojourn among you:
"I have loved no darkness, Sophisticated no truth, Nursed no delusion,
Allowed no fear."