Who is Sir William Osler?

William_Osler_photographWilliam Osler was a physician in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. He is one of the founders of the John Hopkins Hospital and is commonly referred to as “the father of modern medicine”. He revolutionized the way that medicine was taught by bringing students from classroom to patients’ bedside. He also founded the first residency program.

During my medical education at McGill University (Montreal, Canada), I have heard over and over about his achievements. The faculty of medicine is even on a street called “Sir William Osler”. Actually, even before starting university, I used to admire his work and dedication to patients. He led by example and taught doctors that it is not the disease, but the patient that is at the core of health care. He is the first to have introduced “holistic care” which consist of treating the patient, and not just the disease.

It may seem like there is no difference between the 2, but there is! Take, for example, the patient who has breast cancer that is cured by mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. The disease is gone, and the physician did his/her job. Bbut it doesn’t mean that there are no other sequelae that the doctor should address: social aspects, financial concerns, issues about physical appearance, concerns, depression, etc…

What I am trying to say is that curing a disease does not mean that the patient is fully treated. The goal of health care is to make people well – physically and psychologically.

William Osler is the reason that today’s physicians think this way! He is the reason that I think like this today! Treating, and not just curing: taking care of all the aspects of patients’ health: physical, psychological, social, and financial. Focusing on well-being, and not just absence of disease.

Here are a few of his inspiring quotes:

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