Selected writings of A. Jackson Howe.
Were the advice given by Dr. Howe in the following excerpt generally acted upon by Eclectic Physicians there would be no dearth of good students to carry on the future work of Eclecticism. "Let every physician," he says, "look about and endeavor to discover an embryo Hunter or Velpeau." Again he writes: "Give no encouragement to the ignorant, the idle, and the imbecile, for they would bring reproach upon a high-toned profession; but seek the promising youths in humble vocations." This he believed to be the bounden duty of the physician—to aid, encourage, and direct some worthy young man to take up the profession of medicine. Truly some of the best physicians have sprung from the trades and many more from the farms and the little red schoolhouse. If not throttled by the desire of the few autocrats in high places to place medical education only within the reach of the wealthy, we hope for many years to see our own ranks recruited from the youth whose best assets are health, courage, ambition, and the disposition to toil—the farmer, the school teacher, the mechanic, and toiler—the "hewers of wood and the drawers of water." Dr. Howe never penned a truer saying than when he wrote: "The most sparkling intellectual diamonds come to the lapidary from obscure regions. There is a rough 'brilliant' within the scope of every physician, and it is a sin to leave it undiscovered, uncut, and unset."—Ed. Gleaner.
MEDICAL RECRUITS.—A young man rarely takes it into his head to become a doctor, unless somebody asks him why he does not study medicine, or offers a suggestion which kindles in him the desire to engage in a lofty pursuit. A young man on a farm or in a workshop has not the courage to go to a physician and say, "What shall I do to become a doctor ?" He is afraid his aspirations will be ridiculed by the august personage who deals with life and death. How, then, is the crude material to be transformed into a valuable product? By the "busy practitioner" in his perambulations; he is to scrutinize the young men in his professional rounds, and when he sees one who has a good education and an ambition to advance his position in the world, the leading question is put to him, "How would you like to study medicine?" If a ready response is not obtained, it may be because the "hewer of wood and drawer of water" has not the self-assurance to make a reply. However, he has now the right to revolve the question in his mind, and as he becomes familiar with the topic he gains confidence, resolves to make inquiries of his questioner, and if properly encouraged will make preparations to enter upon a career which leads to professional life.
It is often said that there are too many doctors already, that the professions are overcrowded, that the young farmer or mechanic better adhere to his ancestral calling, and a score of other threadbare aphorisms which are calculated to smother modest aspirations, and to keep the rising generation in old ruts.
Some of the best surgeons have sprung from "the trades," and as the surgical art is emphatically mechanical, the more surgeons know of the trades the quicker they comprehend a surgical principle. A distinguished Philadelphia surgeon was a New Jersey blacksmith at the age of twenty-five; John Hunter was a carpenter at twenty, and could scarcely read and write; Ambrose Pare was a barber at twenty-two, and paid his way while studying medicine in Paris by working at his trade at odd hours; Velpeau was a weaver at twenty-two, and resolved to outdo his countryman. Pare, in work and study; an eminent American surgeon, now living, therefore his name can not be mentioned, was a shoemaker at twenty-three, and now boasts that he learned how to keep his knives sharp while at work at his trade.
Let every physician look about and endeavor to discover an embryo Hunter or Velpeau in his circle of acquaintance. The profession of medicine is tolerably full, yet there is plenty of room for a high grade of accessions. Give no encouragement to the ignorant, the idle, and the imbecile, for they would bring reproach upon a high-toned profession; but seek the promising youths in humble vocations. The most sparkling intellectual diamonds come to the lapidary from obscure regions. There is a rough "brilliant" within the scope of every physician, and it is a sin to leave it undiscovered, uncut, and unset.
The Eclectic division of the medical profession needs first-class recruits, and the way to obtain them is for every medical man who has the success of liberal and enlightened medicine at heart to be instrumental in bringing one high private into the ranks every year or two.—HOWE, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1875.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.