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On Teaching the Care of the Patient

Charles S. Davidson, M.D.
AMA Arch Intern Med. 1958;101(5):847-848. doi:10.1001/archinte.1958.00260170003001.
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To the medical studies of thirty years ago Francis Weld Peabody wrote, "The secret of the care of the patient is caring for the patient" (Peabody, F. W.: The Care of the Patient, J. A. M. A. 88:877, 1927). When this was written, the acceleration of discoveries in scientific medicine was just beginning. Insulin had only recently been found; liver extract for pernicious anemia was soon to be available. Fluid and electrolyte balance were little known by practitioners and medical students. Potent, sometimes dangerous, medicines, like hormones and antibiotics, were years away, and the hospital clinical chemistry laboratory could not tell the doctor the values for transaminase, ceruloplasmin, or hydroxycorticoids.

Today, in a somewhat different context, the Peabody aphorism is as apt as it was in 1927, or more so. On many sides one hears complaints that medical students are taught only scientific medicine or that the patient is


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