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February 1, 1965


JAMA. 1965;191(5):407-408. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03080050053017

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A professor enjoys several advantages not granted to lesser mortals. For one thing he is not expected to know a great deal outside his own particular field of competence. And then, he is entitled to say without loss of face, "I don't know." A professor of pathology, eg, is not expected to answer questions on anesthesiology or clinical pediatrics. A mantle of authority has definite circumscription, and a chair covers only a small territory. The medical student, on the other hand, possessing neither mantle nor chair, feels very uncomfortable about saying, "I don't know." He is supposed to know a great deal about almost everything.

Oddly enough, he very often does. The student has learned the "latest" about all medical subjects, and while his knowledge may be shallow, it is at least broad. The professor, advancing in one small area, loses touch with vast stretches of medicine and falls continuously

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