Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics


Search This Site

Journal Club

LeBaron S. "Can the Future of Medicine Be Saved from the Success of Science?" Acad Med2004;79: 661-665. Reviewed by Randy Rockney,Brown University


LeBaron S. "Can the Future of Medicine Be Saved from the Success of Science?"
Acad Med2004;79: 661-665.

Reviewed by Randy Rockney,Brown University

As I read this article I kept thinking about Rich and Steve. It asks the reader to meditate upon all the things the two of them represented and ultimately gave their lives to promote.

The author is the director of the Center for Education in Family and Community Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. The article is an edited version of his acceptance speech when he received the award for Humanism in Medicine, presented by the AAMC in 2003. His primary message or the one, as he says, "as big as the ocean," is that "the fundamental connections that we physicians have with each other and with our patients are endangered by an illusion that scientific knowledge is The Key to well-being and health." He connects physicians' unhappiness with their work with patients' dissatisfaction with their health care. He emphasizes that, "our work as physicians is not only about science; it is equally about life stories and caring for people who suffer." He does not deny the miracles that have come about through advances in scientific knowledge and technology, but he does perceive a loss of balance between knowledge (science) and wisdom (humanism). The point of his essay is to urge us as physicians to recreate that balance. A good place to begin, he suggests, is to stop beating up on ourselves (my words, not his) and recognize that "we physicians are entirely as human as our patients." He cites episodes from his own personal development as a physician where he, fortified by poetry, learned to care for himself as well as others and urges us to do the same. In his personal journey he learns that becoming a compassionate being is not an unattainable goal but instead requires the practice of being "intensely together with those who suffer." He ends the essay with a beautiful and moving story of his reaching out to a seemingly forever withdrawn and dying child to bring that child and his parents back together at the end of the child's life.

Comment: This is a lovely essay and one worthy of being read by everyone in COMSEP and probably by every physician. I found the title a trifle misleading as it seems to portend a bashing of science which the author takes pains to avoid. Besides, any article that opens with a reference to opera, in this case La Boheme, has got a lot going for it in my book.

(I couldn't agree with Randy more. Take a moment right now and read this article. As we all face the increasing pressures and observe many of us (?including ourselves) become more disengaged with our chosen profession, the message of Dr. LeBaron and our own dear colleagues, Rich and Steve, is needed more than ever. While not part of a publication, our members' many beautiful words about Rich and Steve's passions and every day inclusion of humanism and altruism (posted on the listserv) highlighted just how each individual could make a difference. Have you taken a moment today to view things from someone else's perspective? Have you been "intensely together with those who suffer?" Some days it seems like just too much to add to the already crowded hour, but don't you feel better after reaching out in that very human way? Karen Marcdante)


Return to Journal Club