Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
Related entry: Medical Education
This editorial is a strong refutation of the view frequently entertained that Eclectics were opposed to a higher standard of medical education. All through his long journalistic career he contended for a more thorough medical education, and took every opportunity to point out the advantages of the well prepared and carefully educated doctor. But he insisted that such education be practical and in the direction of humane medication. He magnanimously leaves the choice of a college to the preceptor.—Ed. Gleaner.
MEDICAL EDUCATION.—We have heretofore briefly alluded to the necessity of a higher standard of education, if we desired to occupy that position in society, and command that attention that our system of practice deserves. It is true that our students, as a class, are full as well prepared for medical study as they are in other medical colleges, but that is not claiming much. They are also as well taught, as far as they are willing to go, the greatest trouble being that they will not complete their studies. The demand for Eclectic practitioners is so great that frequently they commence practice on the completion of their first course of lectures, and in a short time they have contracted such family and social ties, that it is difficult for them to complete their studies. Many have not sufficient means to complete their course, and are obliged to settle down in some obscure place where they can make a living, and frequently find that from their imperfect education a living is all they can make.
Some of these things can not be changed; others can. If our physicians would strenuously insist upon a thorough education before commencing practice, it would have such weight with students that eight out of ten who now practice on one course of lectures would become thoroughly qualified for their profession. Much care should be used in selecting young men for the profession, that they should have a sufficient preparatory education, natural talent and love for the study, and that good judgment which, after all, is one of the main elements of success. A prime necessity in a majority of cases, is a sufficiency of means to complete their studies and furnish themselves with the necessary books and facilities for study. Poverty is no disgrace, but it is very unpleasant, especially to the medical student, and though we would not wish to discourage those who have a strong love for the study and practice of medicine, who, though poor, are honorably working their way through, we may say that it requires an amount of energy and perseverance not possessed by many.
The practice of medicine is a high and honorable calling, and demands more than an ordinary amount of talent, energy, and perseverance. To those qualified by natural ability and education, none presents such a certainty of success, both socially and pecuniarily. In our branch of the profession, especially, the field is large and the laborers are few. A thousand might find desirable locations and a good business with the year, who would pave the way for as many more. The best fields for practice—our large cities—are as yet comparatively unoccupied—and there are hundreds of applications from the rich agricultural counties of the west for Eclectic physicians.
The question we have now to decide is, will we furnish the men for these places, or will we allow them to be occupied by our opponents? We can furnish them if we will: every practitioner might induce one competent young man to engage in the study of medicine, at least every two years, which would increase our ranks from one to two thousand yearly. As I have before remarked, the stronger we are in numbers, the more influence we have as a body, and as individual members of that body. In looking over the lists of the college books one fact is very prominent—those who send the largest number of students, succeed best in practice, keep better posted up, have the greatest social influence, and make the most money. Why is this? The reason seems plain to me. The presence of a student stimulates to study and habits of accurate observation and correct reasoning, so that in the end the teacher has gained as much if not more than the pupil.
As regards medical colleges, I have but little to say, preferring that each practitioner should be the judge of where it would be best to send his pupil. Our branch of the profession has been cursed with mushroom colleges, and juvenile and insufficient professors. Bombast and self-gratulation sometimes passes current with the ignorant, but it is despicable in the eyes of those whose opinions are of value. We must have thorough teaching. Therefore, select for your students such institutions as have lecturers proven to be competent by the long occupancy of their positions and the intrinsic value of their publications.—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1864.