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JAMA Revisited
September 24, 2014

A Physician’s Personal Hobbies and Prescriptions

JAMA. 2014;312(12):1261. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.279706

Every physician who has been actively engaged in his profession finds that there is a wide range of remedies that are valuable only in the secondary list, and that after all his main reliance in routine work is upon a few well known and long tried remedies. Oliver W. Holmes says: “Give me opium, wine and milk and I will cure all diseases to which flesh is heir.” Now while this is hyperbolic, it appeals to the experience of all as a terse statement of fact. Just as a mechanic will fashion a wide variety of articles with a few simple tools so the physician with a few good remedies mastered in their every detail, will meet the varying exigencies of his daily round, successfully. But this very knowledge has its dangers. It is characteristic of mental action that it repeats itself the more easily with each repetition—and we are but human. It is less labor to use the old formula again than to devise new. One man runs largely to bismuth, another to iron, another to hypophosphites. Again what is still worse routine is to treat all maladies in one line, to see nothing but disinfection for instance, or to see but one organ of the body at fault, and make the womb, or ovary, or kidney or whatnot, depending upon the individual’s specialty, the offender.

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