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JAMA 100 Years Ago
April 23 2008

TWO KINDS OF WEALTH.

Author Affiliations
 

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2008;299(16):1964. doi:10.1001/jama.299.16.1964

A few days ago a famous American surgeon told a friend that it was a constant mortification to him that for his life-work he had not chosen business rather than medicine; and yet the annual income of this particular surgeon from practice is perhaps $100,000. Also a few days ago at the testimonial dinner to Robert Koch in New York City, a layman, Andrew Carnegie, who has gathered, who has given away, and who still has left more money than any other one individual, said that he would give all his worldly wealth for the immaterial wealth of many of the physicians there before him. It is distressingly evident that there is a vast difference between the standards of life of these two men. Their judgments seem irreconcilable. The famous surgeon's success and income for one year would more than satisfy many of us impecunious strugglers for a lifetime, and that of Carnegie would give the profession an almost immediate victory over most diseases—a hoped-for victory that is the ideal, the heart of the faith of every worthy physician. Is there no possible reconciliation of the two points of view? What is the truth, and what the falsity of each position, which make them so ludicrously and yet so sadly antagonistic? Why does the surgeon with the income of a prince, but not of a Carnegie, hunger for the millions, while the industrial Crœsus would gladly give all his many millions for the medical man's mind and vocation? If they make the trade, they must soon needs logically trade back again.

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