An ICAN list member posted a New York Times article, “Miracle Workers” by David Rieff. A lot of it made sense, and I sympathized with the author’s observance of his mother’s journey towards untimely death. However, I must point out something that at first struck me as odd (well, actually my first response was “tough $h!t”) and then began to eat at me a bit:
Ultimately, it is no doubt simply irrational to expect physicians to simultaneously be great clinicians, great scientists and great psychologists and humanists (as well as great accountants). Some are; but a medical system built on the assumption that such mastery can be normative would be an exercise in folly.
I am an University educator. The terms of my contract expect achievement in three areas: teaching, research, and service. In order to advance in my academic career, I must prove excellence in at least two of these areas every time I request an advance. Teaching can be equated to clinical work – as a teacher I work from my acquired knowledge base, extensive education in the field, and experience as a practitioner. Research and/or creative actitivity is often the most important facet of an academic’s portfolio, for better or worse. Service to the field is also expected, and certainly psychology and humanism plays into all three aspects. The demands are there – they extend to me as a “pedigreed” practitioner; they certainly apply to the “pedigreed” practitioners of medicine. Rieff did not need to cut them this kind of “slack”.