Medicine – The Master-Word in Medicine Part 1

BEFORE proceeding to the pleasing duty of addressing the undergraduates, as a native of this province and as an old student of this school, I must say a few words on the momentous changes inaugurated with this session, the most important, perhaps, which have taken place in the history of the profession in Ontario. The splendid laboratories which we saw opened this afternoon, a witness to the appreciation by the authorities of the needs of science in medicine, make possible the highest standards of education in the subjects upon which our Art is based. They may do more. A liberal policy, with a due regard to the truth that the greatness of a school lies in brains not bricks, should build up a great scicntific centre which will bring renown to this city and to our country. The men in charge of the departments are of the right stamp. See to it that you treat them in the right way by giving skilled assistance enough to ensure that the vitality of men who could work for the world is not sapped by the routine of teaching. One regret will, I know, be in the minds of many of my younger hearers. The removal of the department of anatomy and physiology from the biological laboratory of the university breaks a connexion which has had an important influence on medicine in this city. To Professor Ramsay Wright is due much of the inspiration which has made possible these fine new laboratories. For years he has encouraged in every way the cultivation of the scientific branches of medicine and has unselfishly devoted much time to promoting the best interests of the Medical Faculty. And in passing let me pay a tribute to the ability and zeal with which Dr. A. B. Macallum has won for himself a world-wide reputation by intricate studies which have carried the name of this University to every nook and corner of the globe where the science of physiology is cultivated. How much you owe to him in connexion with the new buildings I need scarcely mention in this audience.

But the other event which we celebrate is of much greater importance. When the money is forthcoming it is an easy matter to join stone to stone in a stately edifice, but it is hard to find the market in which to buy the precious cement which can unite into an harmonious body the professors of medicine of two rival medical schools in the same city. That this has been accomplished so satisfactorily is a tribute to the good sense of the leaders of the two faculties, and tells of their recognition of the needs of the profession in the province. Is it too much to look forward to the absorption or affiliation of the Kingston and London schools into the Provincial University? The day has passed in which the small school without full endowment can live a life beneficial to the students, to the profession or to the public. I know well of the sacrifice of time and money which is freely made by the teachers of those schools; and they will not misunderstand my motives when I urge them to commit suicide, at least so far as to change their organizations into clinical schools in affiliation with the central university, as part, perhaps, of a widespread affiliation of the hospitals of the province. A school of the first rank in the world, such as this must become, should have ample clinical faculties under its own control. It is as much a necessity that the professors of medicine and surgery, etc., should have large hospital services under their control throughout the year, as it is that professors of pathology and physiology should have laboratories such as those in which we here meet. It should be an easy matter to arrange between the provincial authorities and the trustees of the Toronto General Hospital to replace the present antiquated system of multiple small services by modern well-equipped clinics—three in medicine and three in surgery to begin with. The increased efficiency of the service would be a substantial quid pro quo, but there would have to be a self-denying ordinance on the part of many of the attending physicians. With the large number of students in the combined school no one hospital can furnish in practical medicine, surgery and the specialties a training in the art an equivalent of that which the student will have in the science in the new laboratories. An affiliation should be sought with every other hospital in the city and province of fifty beds and over, in each of which two or three extra-mural teachers could be recognized, who would recieve for three or more months a number of students proportionate to the beds in the hospital. I need not mention names. We all know men in Ottawa, Kingston¬, London, Hamilton, Guelph and Chatham, who could take charge of small groups of the senior students and make of them good practical doctors. I merely throw out the suggestion. There are difficulties in the way; but is there anything worth struggling for in this life which does not bristle with them?

Students of Medicine: May this day be to each of you, as it was to me when I entered this school thirty-five years ago, the beginning of a happy life in a happy calling. Not one of you has come here with such a feeling of relief as that which I experienced at an escape from conic sections and logarithms and from Hooker and Pearson. The dry bones became clothed with interest, and I felt that I had at last got to work. Of the greater advantages with which you start I shall not speak. Why waste my words on what you cannot understand. To those of us only who taught and studied in the dingy old building which stood near here is it given to feel the full change which the years have wrought, a change which my old teachers, whom I see here to-day—Dr. Richardson, Dr. Ogden, Dr. Thorburn and Dr. Oldright —must find hard to realize. One looks about in vain for some accustomed object on which to rest the eye in its backward glance—all, all are gone, the old familiar places. Even the landscape has altered, and the sense of loneliness and regret, the sort of homesickness one experiences on such occasions, is relieved by a feeling of thankfulness that at least some of the old familiar faces have been spared to see this day. To me at least the memory of those happy days is a perpetual benediction, and I look back upon the two years I spent at this school with the greatest de-light. There were many things that might have been improved—and we can say the same of every medical school of that period—but I seem to have got much more out of it than our distinguished philosopher friend, J. Beattie Crozier, whose picture of the period seems hardly drawn. But after all, as someone has remarked, instruction is often the least part of an education, and, as I recall them, our teachers in their life and doctrine set forth a true and lively word to the great enlightenment of our darkness. They stand out in the background of my memory as a group of men whose influence and example were most helpful. In William R. Beaumont and Edward Mulberry Hodder, we had before us the highest type of the cultivated English surgeon. In Henry H. Wright we saw the incarnation of faithful devotion to duty—too faithful, we thought, as we trudged up to the eight o’clock lecture in the morning. In W. T. Aikins, a practical surgeon of remarkable skill and an ideal teacher for the general practitioner. How we wondered and delighted in the anatomical demonstrations of Dr. Richardson, whose infective enthusiasm did much to make anatomy the favourite subject among the students. I had the double advantage of attending the last course of Dr. Ogden and the first of Dr. Thorburn on materia medica and therapeutics. And Dr. Oldright had just begun his career of unselfish devotion to the cause of hygiene.

To one of my teachers I must pay in passing the tribute of filial affection. There are men here today who feel as I do about Dr. James Bovell—that he was of those finer spirits, not uncommon in life, touched to finer issues only in a suitable environment. Would the Paul of evolution have been Thomas Henry Huxley had the Senate elected the young naturalist to a chair in this university in 1851? Only men of a certain metal rise superior to their surroundings, and while Dr. Bovell had that all-important combination of boundless ambition with energy and industry, he had that fatal fault of diffuseness, in which even genius is strangled. With a quadrilateral mind, which he kept spinning like a teetotum, one side was never kept uppermost for long at a time. Caught in a storm which shook the scientific world with the publication of the Origin of Species, instead of sailing before the wind, even were it with bare poles, he put about and sought a harbour of refuge in writing a work on Natural Theology, which you will find on the shelves of second-hand book shops in a company made respectable at least by the presence of Paley. He was an omnivorous reader and transmutor, he could talk pleasantly, even at times transcendentally, upon anything in the science of the day, from protoplasm to evolution; but he lacked concentration and that scientific accuracy which only comes with a long training (sometimes, indeed, never comes,) and which is the ballast of the boat. But the bent of his mind was devotional, and early swept into the Tractarian movement, he became an advanced Churchman, a good Anglican Catholic. As he chaffingly remarked one day to his friend, the Rev. Mr. Darling, he was like the waterman in Pilgrim’s Progress, rowing one way towards Rome, but looking steadfastly in the other direction to-wards Lambeth. His Steps to the Altar and his Lectures on the Advent attest the earnestness of his convictions; and later in life, following the example of Linacre, he took orders and became another illustration of what Cotton Mather calls the angelic conjunction of medicine with divinity. Then, how well I recall the keen love with which he would engage in metaphysical discussions, and the ardour with which he studied Kant, Hamilton, Reed, and Mill. At that day, to the Rev. Prof. Bevan was intrusted the rare privilege of directing the minds of the thinking youths at the Provincial University into proper philosophical channels. It was rumoured that the hungry sheep looked up and were not fed. I thought so at least, for certain of them, led by T. Wesley Mills, came over daily after Dr. Bovell’s four o’clock lecture to reason high and long with him.

On Providence, Foreknowledge, Will and Fate. Fixed Fate, Freewill, Foreknowledge absolute.

Yet withal, his main business in life was as a physician, much sought after for his skill in diagnosis, and much be-loved for his loving heart. He had been brought up in the very best practical schools. A pupil of Bright and of Addison, a warm personal friend of Stokes and of Graves, he maintained loyally the traditions of Guy’s, and taught us to reverence his great masters. As a teacher he had grasped the fundamental truth announced by John Hunter of the unity of physiological and pathological processes, and, as became the occupant of the chair of the Institutes of Medicine, he would discourse on pathological processes in lectures on physiology, and illustrate the physiology of bioplasm in lectures on the pathology of tumours to the bewilderment of the students. When in September, 1870, he wrote to me that he did not intend to return from the West Indies I felt that I had lost a father and a friend; but in Robert Palmer Howard, of Montreal, I found a noble step-father, and to these two men, and to my first teacher, the Rev. W. A. Johnson, of Weston, I owe my success in life—if success means getting what you want and being satisfied with it.