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JAMA 100 Years Ago
October 4, 2000

MEDICAL ORATORY.

Author Affiliations
 

JenniferReiling, Editorial Assistant

JAMA. 2000;284(13):1626. doi:10.1001/jama.284.13.1626-JJY00031-2-1

We publish this week an article on "Physicians as Speakers," which can be recommended as instructive reading. The medical is the only one of the three learned professions that pays no attention to oratory, and popularly, as well as in the profession itself, the idea prevails that a physician has no need of any accomplishments in that direction. Mr. Whitford shows from a reporter's standpoint how erroneous this notion is; he makes it plain that for the physician who is to take any active part in the progress of medical science a pleasing and effective elocution is in no sense a useless accomplishment. The higher a man rises in the profession, the more essential he finds such ability; he may be eminent as an investigator, a practitioner, and a writer, and yet be seriously handicapped in comparison with men far below him in all these respects by the lack of power, of command of language, and easy and attractive delivery. A great engineer once said, when worsted in argument by those whose opinions on the subject he could not particularly respect: "There is no gift like the gift of gab." This is a rough statement of a very much more serious truth than was sarcastically implied by its utterer. It was the gift of speech that raised man above the brutes, and it is the same, even in these days of printer's ink, that still often raises man above his fellows. The medical profession may not demand, as generally as the others, oratorical accomplishments of its members, but it does call for them to a certain extent. It is not alone, however, for medical meetings, college lecturing, etc., that the physician requires a proper elocutional training; the profession is constantly coming more and more to the front as a public educator and administrator of affairs, and here the value of such training is most manifest. No medical man will be the loser for having such an accomplishment, and the world would be a gainer if more of us had it. It is well, in this regard, to see ourselves as others see us, and for this reason alone the article should be profitable to our readers.

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