Review Articles

Recapturing the Art of Medicine: From the Selma and Lois DeBakey Lectureship in Biomedical Communications, given in the winter of 2011




I revere the concept of the teacher. The word doctor comes from the Latin “docere,” to teach, and that is what we are expected to do. We know this from the Hippocratic Oath, and we know it in the grand tradition of medicine. We don’t know much about Hippocrates, but we know that “his” writings — approximately 70 books that comprise the Hippocratic corpus — were not actually written by him but by many people over a period of several centuries. The Hippocratic physicians accomplished much and they laid down the foundation for the practice of medicine as we know it today. They did not believe that sickness occurred because the person had been morally corrupt in some way. They proposed for the very first time, at least in the western concept, that disease was a natural phenomenon that had to do with forces of nature. Yet the most important thing they left us was their code of ethics — laid down not just in the Hippocratic Oath but in many of those 70 books. Their sense of ethics wasn’t akin to today’s meaning of medical ethics. Rather, it meant healer’s morality, the goodness of the physician. That the physician was a good person with whom the patient could identify was an important characteristic of anyone who attempted to heal, because this was part of the transference that enabled the patient to identify with the person who was treating them.

  • Year: 2012
  • Volume: 8 Issue: 4
  • Page/Article: 47-49
  • DOI: 10.14797/mdcj-8-4-47
  • Published on 1 Oct 2012
  • Peer Reviewed