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Medicine as a Business.

Selected writings of John M. Scudder.

Related entries: Medicine in a Pecuniary Point of View

This article bears some relation to the editorial, "Medicine in a Pecuniary Point of View," and may be profitably read in connection therewith. The advice to make the business of medicine nothing but medicine is sound, and is applicable to those who take up side issues to the detriment of doctor and patients.—Ed. Gleaner.

MEDICINE AS A BUSINESS.—The longer I live the better I am satisfied that success comes from attending to one business. In my own experience, I have never made a dollar, or gained any reputation, outside of my profession, and I should have been many hundreds of dollars' better off if I had never made an effort outside of it. This I think will be the experience of nearly all our readers, and the exceptional instance of the doctor who is a good horse-trader or speculator will hardly prove an exception to this rule.

The practice of medicine requires the whole attention, and if a man gives it the study it requires, he will have no time for other things, even should he have the ability to do them. It is my experience, and my observation of others confirms it, that the practice of medicine repays the time and thought given it. The repayment may come a little slowly, but come it will if we have patience (patients, some would read it).

If medicine is a business by which we gain a livelihood, it is well to think of it in this light, and prepare ourselves in a businesslike way for its pursuit. Our merchandise is skilled labor (practice you may call it) as much as of any mechanic or artisan in the land. Skilled labor has a higher value than ordinary labor, because it has required time and thought to gain this skill—the time and thought being the capital of which the larger receipts may be regarded as the interest. Just in proportion to the skill is the compensation, as a rule. Your half-learned tradesman has difficulty in procuring steady employment, and he has poor wages; your skilled workman does not want business, and gets good pay.

This is the case in the practice of medicine in the main. The exceptional case, where your ignoramus thrives on the brass he carries in his face, and the good business qualifications he has, does not mitigate against the rule. The physician who has diligently studied in the office, who has honestly attended the full complement of lectures required for graduation, and has kept himself read up in the literature of his profession, has succeeded in the past, will succeed in the future, has in himself the elements of success. If in place of two he has attended his three, four or more courses of lectures, or taken a graded course, determining to know all that is taught in medical colleges, he will have a larger capital to work on, and may justly expect a more lucrative business.

These facts can not be too strongly impressed upon medical students, for many seem to think that the only thing to be desired is an early graduation, and commencement of business. Time spent in preparation will pay more than the same time spent in practice.

Business habits are just as essential to success in medicine as in merchandizing, and a physician can not expect to succeed well without them. In addition to a good medical education it is well to add general information, for the physician belongs to a learned profession. It is also a gentlemanly calling, and it requires the manners, dress, and address of the gentleman.

A merchant wishing to do business looks for a good location and for nice rooms; so should a physician, for a convenient and comfortable office brings business. The same care should be used in fitting it up, and keeping it in good order, for the care shown in this is taken as a sample of the care that will be given the sick. The difference between a well kept and nice looking office, and an ill kept and disgusting looking place is not so much a difference in money as in a little labor, which costs nothing.

Your unkempt, frousy, ill-clothed, dirty-looking doctor, is a very common and a very cheap article, and not in active demand. Your doctor that rides or drives a horse whose ribs are continually suggesting oats and hay, and who eats the fences where he is hitched, is not one to be trusted in grave cases of disease, or by families who pay their bills promptly. The rattle of the doctors old buggy that can be heard half a mile, is not likely to bring the musical jingle of dollars in the pocket. The unpainted house, with a hat and piece of old carpet instead of window lights, the ill-looking door-yard, and tumble-down fence, are not suggestive of skill, as the wo-begone wife and frousy children are not suggestive of the accomplishments which the majority like in a doctor. —SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1879.


The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.



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