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A SPEECH ABOUT COMANCHES AND MIRACLES MADE TO PREMEDICAL STUDENTS WHO ARE NOT AS SCARY AS DOCTORS JIM W. CORDER* When I say that I am afraid of doctors, it doesn't, ofcourse, signify all that much. I am, after all, afraid of a good many things: doctors, snakes, elementary school principals, any aircraft that isn't powered by a rubber band, and my mother. It is this fear, nevertheless, that I want to commence with. I expect I am not the only one who is afraid of doctors. Many ofus are a little fearful, at least, and a lot intimidated. Many of us feel terribly distanced from our physicians. I take my digestive tract to see my doctor. It is mine, intimately mine. But the doctor brings to his investigation a mysterious language that I do not understand; he has strange, enabling powers over my digestive tract, powers whose nature I cannot fathom, and he has marvelous instruments that tell him things I am not to know. My perception ofhim endows him with supernatural powers—he is both mystic healer and scientist, in both capacities privy to secrets I am not to know. When his scrutiny of me is over, he gives me medication that I don't understand and advice that I can't follow, advice that is sometimes useless because he doesn't know who I am. (Along the way, I should say, he also manages at times to bring cure and comfort, ease from both pain and distress; he is also a grand fellow whose company I enjoy.) It strikes me, when I think about it, that if I and others are indeed afraid or intimidated, doctors really do not want us to be. The nature of their craft and art is entirely otherwise. But they forget. The tempo of their lives rushes on. Multiplying needs crush in on them, and they forget. I ask you to remember that fear, and dispel it, when you can. I ask you to notice the distance that grows between doctor and patient, Speech made to premedicai students, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas, March 1979. *Dean, Add Ran College of Arts and Sciences, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas 76129.© 1981 by The University of Chicago. 0031-5982/81/2402-0206$01.00 Perspectives in Biology and Medicine ¦ Winter 1981 | 189 and close it, when you can. It is at the heart of the work you have undertaken to do. Remember, if you will, that the word "doctor" comes from the Latin doctor, which meant teacher, and originally from the Latin decere, which meant "to teach." Teach us. Come into our presence. Come close to us. Teach us more of what you know. When we know more, we'll be less fearful; we'll no longer be patients, mere passive objects spread out before you. When we know more, we'll be able tojoin you and ease your burden by assisting in our own cure. Remember, if you will, that the word "medicine" comes from the Latin medicus, or physician, but before that it probably stems from the earlier source, meditan, which meant "to think over," as in our word "meditate." A doctor does not exist, if you please, to prescribe doses of this or that, to dictate dietary regimens, or even to build hospitals. A doctor exists, first, to think. That means knowing himself or herself, knowing the nature of those who seek aid, knowing their perceptions of themselves and of their doctors, knowing the possibilities of the art and craft of medicine. It also means thinking a way through to the best relationships among these things. Remember, if you will, that the word "hospital" comes from the Latin hospes, which means "guest," and more specifically from hospitalis, which means "relating to a guest." The etymology should help you to remember that a hospital is not a doctor's laboratory, not his chapel, not his corporation. It is our place as guests, the doctor's place as host or steward . If you will remember that, perhaps we will no longer be quite so fearful, quite so far removed, quite such passive burdens. But I must hurry on: There...


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