University of Minnesota

“If It Isn’t Fun.” – Senior Year Medicine, 1947-1948


More Extracurricular Reading

September  9, 1947

My summer was full, a month of leisure at home in Miami and a month of travel looking for the perfect internship in the North (Chicago) and the East (Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore). Now, fourth year medical school is begun.

I want to record a couple of items from my recent reading:

Will Durant quotes the philosophy of Francis Bacon, “Our thoughts are pictures rather of ourselves than of their objects.” Bacon also gives the following golden counsel: “In general, let every student of nature take this as a rule — that whatever his mind seizes upon and dwells upon with peculiar satisfaction is to be held in suspicion. So much the more care is to be taken in dealing with such questions, to keep the understanding even and clear.”

I can hardly wait to get the Classics Club edition of the Essays of Sir Francis Bacon.


September 11

I’m in bed attempting to discourage a cold coming on at this unusual time of year. Casanova (1725-1798) used “cold” synonymously with “catarrh.” Rabelais also used the term. Would I dare give a History of Medicine Society presentation on the remarkable ideas of medieval medicine found in Rabelais? Van Loon refers to him as “Dr. Rabelais.” Certainly he had lots of anatomical knowledge.

So, with stuffed nose, weeping eyes, and griping gut, I lie abed reading. I have begun, unsystematically, to read widely and to acquire a library. I should have done this years ago rather than now when my life should be devoted to Aesculapius and to no other gods. But perhaps an intellectual renascence at age 22 is forgivable and not too tardy.

A background of the great thinkers should be acquired in the teens, I suspect, and I blame only myself for its absence in my life, but my deficiency was abetted by a busy, non-intellectual home life and a college education hurried by wartime.

H.G. Wells advises: “Education that is itself half aggression can but turn the mind and snuff the flame of intelligent curiosity.”  This advice could well be heeded by medical students working under heavy-handed pedants. Even our graduate level medical education is aggression; only during this last year has “The Fierce Tutor” let up a bit, allowing some reflection.

September 13

I find that Rabelais was indeed a physician, among his several occupations, and that he lectured in anatomy at Montpelier. He also translated The Aphorisms of Hippocrates from the Greek.

Dr. Storck queried me today in surgery rounds on the differential diagnosis of a mass in the abdomen of a female clinic patient who had had a hysterectomy a year ago. The mass was large, firm, irregular, non-tender, and freely movable. I thought I listed a series of reasonably astute differential diagnoses. But the obvious didn’t dawn on me: that it might be a granuloma due to a sponge left in after the earlier surgery! Two wrongs in this case; the first surgeon’s and then mine.

Tonight, for some reason, I am strangely calm for the guy who will be on the spot for Surgery Bullpen in the morning. “This too shall pass.”

September 14

I survived Bullpen.

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