Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
Related entry: Medical Education
Dr. Scudder believed in the verification of book knowledge by observation and the use of the senses. He attached but little value to authority unless that authority would stand the scrutiny of observation and reasoning. Only that learning which gave a clear perception of truth could be called education. Medical education, he thought, could be best wholly acquired in college, where the student could be guided to search out facts for himself. There he could be made to work systematically, and in medicine, as in all else, he knew "no royal road to learning." He believed also in systematic courses of study for the physician. For the acquisition of anatomy and physiology, comparatively considered, he advised the dissection of animals and the examination of life processes upon !the living creature. There was this, however, to distinguish his methods from that of the professional vivisectionist: he would have the animal thoroughly anesthetized, and then after objectively learning the action of heart and lungs have the animal killed before it came out of its anesthetic state. Thus no suffering was endured by the subject, and the method was entirely humane.—Ed. Gleaner.
MEDICAL EDUCATION.—Readers of the Journal are well aware that I do not believe that memorizing facts from books constitutes an education in anything, much less in medicine. Two things we must do in addition—we must train the senses to correct observation, and the mind to correct reasoning, and then we must prove by this the truth of the facts we gather from books and other sources.
No learning is useless to the student of medicine if it gives him clearer perception of truth, and ability to reason rightly. All learning is useless that closes the mind to truth from observation, and compels the mind to work according to authority. We have had something to say before with reference to the "learned fool," and his want of success in the practice of medicine, and have stated the fact that "common sense" was decidedly the best capital for a doctor. But we want both knowledge and common sense, and they may just as well go together.
There is no "royal road to learning." It requires individual application— time, patience, and perseverance. The good mechanic serves an apprenticeship of from three to five years in the simplest mechanic arts. The successful merchant is "raised" to his business, as is the successful farmer. The lawyer and the theologian have first a classical education—they are trained to study and to reason, and then they have their three or four years of professional study. But the young man of very superficial education and an untrained mind expects to make a good physician with three years' loafing about a physician's office and in a country village, spending more time smoking cigars and gossip than in reading, and two four months' courses of lectures in a medical college.
Office reading is a good thing if the physician has time and ability to point the way, and the student has industry to follow it. But it would be very much better if the student should devote seven months of each of these three years to the study of medicine in the college; the four or five months of the summer are sufficient for the office and the village.
Looking at the subject in this way, we have prepared a graded course of three years, six sessions, for those who can afford the extra expense of board only. In this course we hope to train the student to observe, compare, and reason rightly. He will have time to thoroughly learn human anatomy, and to some extent, comparative anatomy, physiology, pathology, chemistry—even a laboratory course in the university, if the student is fitted for it—and in the last year he can make extra attainments in practice, obstetrics, and surgery.
But I do not wish it understood that this higher education should be confined to those who take this course. Every man can have it, graduate or student, who wills to have it. All that is necessary is to commence THIS DAY a course of study, and keep it up month after month, year after year.
I hear men say, "I have not learned anatomy or physiology because I have not had the opportunities," and I answer, the opportunities are all around you, you do not require a dissecting room, physiological laboratory, or costly apparatus. Any butcher will furnish you lungs, trachea, larynx, heart, liver, kidneys, etc., and any hog a digestive apparatus. Any dog that you can pick up on the road or street will furnish you a subject; chloroform him and examine the action of the respiratory apparatus, and the action of the heart; kill him and he offers an excellent subject for dissection of muscles and blood vessels. The "rooster" that wakes you too early in the morning is a most excellent subject. Take him in for rent, and having dissected him, prepare his skeleton for the office—he makes a fine specimen. Two or three years ago I stimulated our class to make dissections of dogs, and it was wonderful how they gathered them in off the streets, and still more surprising how much they learned of anatomy and physiology in this way.
But why give additional examples? The man who sits down and waits for opportunities to come to him will surely fail; a man makes his opportunities.—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1877.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.