SIDEBAR: Lessons for Today

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Many of Osler’s precepts and teachings are as applicable today as they were a century ago. Their universality and timeless relevance are guideposts. Some of his frequently cited aphorisms include:

  • “In the physician or surgeon no quality takes rank with imperturbability.”
  • “Care more particularly for the individual patient than for the special features of the disease.”
  • “Now the way of life that I preach is a habit to be acquired gradually by long and steady repetition. It is the practice of living for the day only, and for the day’s work. Life in day-tight compartments.
  • “The best doctor, like the successful general, is the one who makes the fewest mistakes.”
  • “To wrest from nature the secrets which have perplexed philosophers in all ages, to track to their sources the causes of disease, to correlate the vast stores of knowledge, that they may be quickly available for the prevention and cure of disease—these are our ambitions.”

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William Osler (1849–1919) is one of the most revered physicians in the history of medicine. He was an outstanding clinician who emphasized bedside teaching, hard work, medical history, and lifelong learning.1 As Professor of Medicine at four institutions in three countries, he exerted a profound...