Knowledge of Materia Medica.
Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
The value of a thorough knowledge of drugs, even if but few in number, is emphasized in all of Prof. Scudder's teachings. He fully realized the inability to carry in one's head an extensive knowledge of myriads of drugs. A physician who thoroughly knows one hundred drugs ought to be a successful prescriber.—Ed. Gleaner.
ONE HEAD NOT LARGE ENOUGH FOR THE MATERIA MEDICA.— The longer I live the more I realize my want of capacity to know all that a physician might know or should know. There is a great deal of so-called knowledge that doctors value highly, and yet is of no earthly advantage in the treatment of the sick. That which serves our purpose best is a working knowledge of the materia medica, and the ability to see the varying expressions of disease in our patients. That which is of the least value, and that should interest us least, is the theories and vagaries of physicians who write and talk from their inner consciousness.
I find myself at a loss every week in my life for a remedy that will fit some case in hand. I puzzle my brain over it, and call over the stock in trade that my memory has put away; sometimes it will come when called for, sometimes it comes some hours afterwards, when I am not thinking of it, and sometimes months will elapse, and a second or third case will bring it up, and I wonder why I had not thought of it at first. Then again I have never known it, and I find I have something yet to learn.
Possibly I have a good knowledge of fifty remedies, a speaking acquaintance of fifty more, with a still other fifty I remember their being spoken of as "having been used," and then I may know the names of a hundred or so of others. Altogether it seems a very small stock in trade, as compared with my Homeopathic brother who counts his remedies by the hundred, and his symptoms for each by the thousand. But then—my head is small.
If a student can go out with a working knowledge of ten to twenty remedies, he will do well; and even if he can put but five in their right places with certainty, he is not doing badly. "Whilst we go over the entire materia medica, we do our best to give a working knowledge of a few remedies, and we find that with the majority we are able to do this.
The result is, that our students have more than ordinary success from the first. They are taught— "that it is better to' give no medicine unless a distinct indication for it is seen; that remedies which impair the life, or markedly disturb any function of life, should not be used; that remedies should be given in small doses, and in pleasant forms; that remedies should be kind in their influence, relieving the unpleasantness of disease, not adding to it."—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1879.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.