Expanding Our Concept of the Realm of Medicine
If you joined me in hearing Seymour Schwartz, M.D., deliver the 2018 Sischy Lecture this fall, I’m sure you were as moved as I was by his talk. “From Medicine to Manuscript, Doctors with a Literacy Legacy” profiled authors with a background in medicine, from the Middle Ages to the present era who are the focus of his book by the same name.
Dr. Schwartz, the Distinguished Alumni Professor of Surgery at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, who was Chair of the Department of Surgery from 1987-98, has authored or edited several surgical textbooks, including seven editions of the widely read “Principles of Surgery,” and is Editor Emeritus of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. His contributions to the field of surgery were recognized in 1992 when he received the Albert Kaiser Medal. But he is also a cartographic historian and his book profiles physicians who have authored books in the humanities.
He took us on a journey of physician authors throughout the ages, showing us that literature offers a mirror of society that is an important component of treating patients. This reinforces what many of us learned from Dr. George Engel at the University of Rochester, that the physician should treat the patient, not just the disease. Dr. Schwartz goes a step further to teach us that “humane medicine” should be a redundancy and that medical mysteries are not all solved by just a study of the vital organs, but a study of the human psyche as well.
The Ben Sischy, M.D., Visiting Scholar in Humane Medicine Lecture was created in 1991 as a tribute to the physician who helped establish the department of Radiation Oncology at Highland Hospital and served as chief of the program for many years. His career was based on his beliefs in the importance of quality patient care, innovative research, and dedicated treatment.
It was truly fitting that Dr. Schwartz was named a Visiting Scholar in Humane Medicine because his life, his work, and his writings reflect those tenets. It’s important to us as physicians to reflect on the qualities that Dr. Schwartz explores in writing about the physicians who came before us and ensure that we nurture such outlets as literary expression in our own lives to become better physicians and better humans.