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DOCTORS, LIMITED: NOTES FOR AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY * GEORGE W. CORNERf In Baltimore, about 1910, a house in a brick row bore a sign at second-floor level that read, "Medico-Chirurgical College of Christ's Institution Limited." I used to pass it on my way to classes at The Johns Hopkins Medical School, a few blocks farther on. I liked to go to the pathology building by way of the hospital rotunda, where Thorwaldsen's majestic statue of Christus Consolator extends its arms in benediction over the sick and the well who endlessly come and go beside it. To the pious donor of that statue, the great hospital also was Christ's institution, more truly, I dare say, than the pretentious little house down the street; but it too is limited, by the flaws and shortages ofour knowledge ofman's body and mind. This thought haunted me daily as I sat at my microscope or watched a postmortem examination. Franklin Mall, professor of anatomy in my student days, had his own ideas about teaching medical students. He was never known to give a lecture or hold a formal recitation. We were each given a place to work in a small, quiet dissecting room and a few words of directions as to how to begin. The rest was up to us, subject only to a daily visit of advice and comment from an instructor. The medical students invented a story that, when Mall's first child was born, his wife asked him how to bathe the baby. "Just put her in the tub," he said, "and let her work out her own technique." Toward the end of my first year, I asked him to let me work on a research problem, was accepted, and received the bathtub treatment. Franklin Mall died at the age of 54, but in that relatively short tenure about a score ofus who began research careers with Mall worked out our own techniques and became professors of anatomy or surgery. *Some of these anecdotes are fromAnatomist at Large, by George W. Corner, © 1958 by Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, New York. tAmerican Philosophical Society, 104 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106. 406 I George W. Corner ¦ Doctors, Limited Llewelys Barker's Saturday clinical lectures were so interesting that students of the preclinical years used to attend them, modestly sitting at the back ofthe amphitheater. One day Dr. Barker was showing a patient who had a severe case ofshingles, with a row oftypical lesions around his abdomen. Always interested in medical nomenclature, Barker remarked that "shingles" seemed an oddly trivial name for an often serious disease; he supposed that it had been suggested by the rows of shingles on the roofof a house. This was too much for me. From my seat high up at the rear, I brashly called out, "It comes from the Latin cingulum, a girdle." There was a general gasp from the front rows at my temerity, but the professor, before continuing his discussion, thanked me for the information . After the lecture, some of my classmates complimented me on my erudition, but in fact I had acquired this particular bit only a few days before, from the weekly medical article in a popular magazine, the Youth's Companion. My growing interest in anatomy led me, late in the first year of medical studies, to ask a senior member of the staff, Dr. Florence Sabin, to preside over an informal "journal club" of like-minded students interested in keeping up with current publications in anatomy and related fields. She kindly agreed and met us weekly to hear one of us report on some recent article, after which she would lead a discussion of the work. Dr. Sabin was a full professor, the first woman to reach that grade at Johns Hopkins. She was the very pattern of a stable and self-controlled scientist. Her research demanded great manual dexterity. It was amusing , therefore, to hear her tell a story of extreme absentmindedness on her part. A member of the journal club reported on a French study of abnormal behavior resulting from local damage to the brain. One patient , a chef, had done various absurd things with his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 406-419
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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