“There is already plenty of evidence to show that we are in danger of losing our clinical heritage and of pinning too much faith in figures thrown up by machines. Medicine must suffer if this tendency is not checked.”
– Paul Wood, MD January 1950
These words from Dr. Paul Wood are interesting. Wood was a mid-twentieth century master cardiologist out of the UK. His story is remarkable if you like those playing strong supporting roles in modern medical history. He’s the guy to the right posing with the cigarette.
I like the quote because it captures the insecurity doctors feel with change. It also supports the idea that a preoccupation with our own relevance isn’t a 21st century issue. Fear and resistance to change are recurring themes throughout medical history. Doctors have always quietly reassured themselves, ‘What I do could never be replaced.’
Wood’s reference to clinical heritage is worth thinking about. With the mind-numbing pace of advancement in the way we treat disease I wonder if the 21st century will support such a concept. Perhaps the idea of heritage had more relevance during a time when medical advances and patterns of care were measured by generations as opposed to months and years.
We’re witnessing the definition of an entirely new generation of physician. It’s time for leaders with new quotes and new ideas that match reality of where we’re headed. Where is our Wood and Osler? Who will be our Flexner?
What will be our heritage?