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May 1958

On Teaching the Care of the Patient

Author Affiliations

Thorndike Memorial Laboratory Boston City Hospital Boston 18

From the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory and the Second and Fourth (Harvard) Medical Services, Boston City Hospital, and the Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

AMA Arch Intern Med. 1958;101(5):847-848. doi:10.1001/archinte.1958.00260170003001


To the medical studies of thirty years ago Francis Weld Peabody wrote, "The secret of the care of the patient is caring for the patient" (Peabody, F. W.: The Care of the Patient, J. A. M. A. 88:877, 1927). When this was written, the acceleration of discoveries in scientific medicine was just beginning. Insulin had only recently been found; liver extract for pernicious anemia was soon to be available. Fluid and electrolyte balance were little known by practitioners and medical students. Potent, sometimes dangerous, medicines, like hormones and antibiotics, were years away, and the hospital clinical chemistry laboratory could not tell the doctor the values for transaminase, ceruloplasmin, or hydroxycorticoids.

Today, in a somewhat different context, the Peabody aphorism is as apt as it was in 1927, or more so. On many sides one hears complaints that medical students are taught only scientific medicine or that the patient is

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