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The Young Man and His Vocation (1925-26): Lesson 10: Medical and Legal Professions

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 04, 2011

For background and links to chapters in this series, see here

LESSON X

MEDICAL AND LEGAL PROFESSIONS

Medicine

The lessening of human suffering which has grown out of recent advances in medical science has made our world a very different place than the world lived in by our great-grandparents. A scientific basis has been developed for the study of disease, so that it becomes possible to determine the cause and best treatment of many ailments which throughout untold generations have shortened man’s life in spite of everything he could do. As a result of this newer knowledge, the average length of human life has been doubled in the last few generations. This has come about not by accident, but by ceaseless toil and the intelligent application of the discoveries of science. Does not such achievements stir the admiration of any young man who is anxious himself to live a life of achievement and service?

The Prospective Doctor

The young man who is considering medicine as a vocation should carefully take stock of himself to make sure that he is adapted to the work. One young man, of well-to-do parents who were anxious to have a doctor in the family, complied with his parents’ request to study medicine. He was sent to the best medical college that could be found, but after spending a number of years in studying he found himself entirely unsuited to the profession; everything about it was distasteful to him. Needless to say he was not successful in his practice. Had more attention been given to vocational adaptation at first, a number of valuable years and a great deal of money could have been saved.

A young man who lived in a small town where a doctor was making a great deal of money decided to become a physician. He bent every energy to prepare himself for a medical college. One day he read an article which showed that, in proportion to cost of education and the length of the period of preparation, doctors did not have an average income larger than that received in many other vocations. This seemed to take away all the incentive the young man had to study medicine, as he had been thinking only in terms of money to be earned. Fortunately he immediately took up another line of work. Dr. George F. Shrady, who was General Grant’s physician, tells in the following words, some of the things to be kept in mind by the young man who expects to study medicine:

“In the first place, your young man must consider whether or not he is suited for the medical profession at all. Does he experience a desire, an absolute call, toward the life of a physician? Does he look upon medicine as something far more than a mere money-making pursuit? Is he content to devote his whole mind to the study of medical science and its development, to study morning, noon, and night and to continue unceasingly to study until death shall summon him to his reward? Unless he can answer in the affirmative he would better give up the thought of becoming a doctor.”

Good health is an absolute necessity for one having a successful practice as a physician. Calls are so irregular and, during certain seasons, so numerous that an iron constitution is necessary to keep up under the strain.

A physician, to be a successful practitioner, should have a cheerful disposition and be able to get along well with people. Many men who are thoroughly familiar with medical science make a miserable failure in practice on account of their personalities.

Only Good Doctors Needed

A report of the Carnegie Foundation on Medical Education ash the following to say about the need for better trained medical men:

“For twenty-five years past there has been an enormous over-production of uneducated and ill-rained medical practitioners. This has been in absolute disregard of the public welfare. Taking the United States as a whole, physicians are four or five times as numerous in proportion to population as in older countries like Germany. In a town of two thousand people one will find, in most of our states, from five to eight physicians where two well trained men could do the work efficiently and make a competent livelihood. When, however, six or eight ill-trained physicians undertake to get a living in a town which will support only two, the whole plan of professional conduct is lowered in the struggle that ensues; each man becomes intent on his own practice, public health and sanitation are neglected, and the ideals and standards of the profession tend to demoralization.’

Probably one of the greatest dangers to public health is the army of comparatively untrained men who begin practice of the healing art under the banner of one or another of the cults, which claims to have a panacea for all human ills, and which sends its advocates into the professional field without adequate training even in the elementary sciences.

There are more than 145,000 physicians in this country. This is perhaps larger than the number should be, but it does not imply that no others should enter the profession. On the contrary, there never was a better opportunity int eh practice of medicine of men having the proper training and personality.

Preparation for Medicine

The medical course in the best institutions is now becoming so well standardized that the prospective doctor cannot go astray if he attends one of the better institutions, and certainly the young medical student of ambitions does not want to spend his time in any but a thoroughly standard medical college. The usual course calls for four years in a medical college preceded by a pre-medical college course of there or four years and followed by a year in a hospital.

Dentistry

There are 56,000 dentists in the Untied States, or more than a third as many as there are physicians. In his study the dentist has many things in common with the physician. The requirements, however, have not been so high although in the better schools they are advancing rapidly. The hours of work of the dentist are regular, and after he establishes a good practice, he usually finds himself in an agreeable occupation.

Law

When many young men think of being lawyers they picture themselves in court eloquently pleading the case of a client and the whole country on tip-toes watching to see their victory. If they have won a high school debate, they consider themselves destined for unquestioned success in the practice of the law. The court work is only one phase – and that often a minor one – of the work of the lawyer. More and more of the lawyer’s work is being done in his office in the settling of estates, in determining legal points concerning real estate, in making wills, in drawing up legal papers, and in giving advice on countless routine matters.

The Need of Law

“Orderly and well-regulated society,” writes a successful lawyer, “could not exist without an authoritative pronouncement of the rules governing the activities of the units composing that society, as well as the society itself. This pronouncement, whether it comes from the single individual sovereign, from a body of rulers, from the representatives of the people, or the people themselves, is the law of society.

It follows that without law there could be no organized society, and consequently law is a fundamental and basic necessity, just in proportion as society becomes more highly organized and its activities more complex, it demands for its administration special skill and knowledge. As food is unconditionally necessary to man’s physical existence, so law is unconditionally necessary to the existence of the social body.”

Desirable Qualities in a Lawyer

There is probably no profession having so diverse effects on those practicing it as the law. Those who are honest and have a love of justice find a wonderful opportunity for service along these lines; whereas persons of low character find in the law a means of stooping to all kinds of trickery and foul play. It is important for the welfare of society that those engaging in the practice of law be men of sterling qualities.

One judge of considerable experience expresses his ideas of conditions of success as follows: “First, absolute honesty; second, absolute honesty; third, absolute honesty; fourth, absolute honesty; and fifth, absolute honesty.”

Another prominent judge says: “the personal qualities desirable in the practice of law consist primarily in those common to all vocations, viz.: integrity, industry, and stick-to-it-iveness. The special mental qualification, however, is a clear, analytical mind, without which no lawyer will be more than ordinarily successful. Apart from this necessary mental attribute other qualifications are quite diversified, and generally result in the ultimate natural selection of legal specialists.

“The person possessing alertness, quick-witted judgment of human nature, ready discrimination of facts, and of the methods of unraveling them, ability to plausibly and good naturedly impress his ideas upon the tribunal he confronts, makes the most successful court attendant and trial lawyer. The individual having a more deliberate and contemplative mind, becomes the legal adviser, the office lawyer, the brief maker, the law professor, and the author of legal literature. The lawyer having patience, a calm and impartial judgment, and a general all-round knowledge of human affairs, usually becomes the best presiding judge.”

The Lord Chief-Justice of England said regarding prospective lawyers:

“I name love of the profession as the first qualification; I name physical health and energy as the second. No man of weak health ought to be advised to go to the bar. For mental qualification, clear-headed common sense, there remains one other major consideration to be taken into account: ability to wait. Unless a man has the means to maintain himself, living frugally for some years, or means of earning enough to maintain himself in this fashion, say by his pen or otherwise, he ought to hesitate before going to the bar.”

The method of preparation for law is not so rigid as for medicine. The young man may enter the profession either by study in law school or by home study in the office of a practicing lawyer. The home study method is not nearly so good as the school for the ambitious young man. Training in a first class law school, supplemented by work in the office of a good law firm taken with broad general experience with practical affairs, probably constitutes the best preparation.

SUGGESTED QUESTIONS

1. Tell of the advancement made in recent years in the control of diphtheria and typhoid fever.
2. Look up the story of the conquest of yellow fever.
3. Discuss the germ theory of disease.
4. Outline the best training for a physician.
5. Why is good training so important for those who practice medicine?
6. Discuss opportunities for the physician, the surgeon, and the dentist.
7. Why are lawyers necessary in the modern world?
8. What are some of the desirable qualities which a lawyer should possess?
9. What is the usual training for those entering the practice of the law?
10. Discuss the relation between the practice of the law and politics.



2 Comments »

  1. Wow! Things have changed! This article is written with the idea that every potential doctor will be going into family practice. Certainly not the case nowadays. Here’s a graphic I’ve used on my blog illustrating some of the changes in health care just from 1938 to 1949 in the area of Polio Care.

    The hours of work of the dentist are regular, and after he establishes a good practice, he usually finds himself in an agreeable occupation.

    …as long as you don’t mind spending most of your life with your hands in peoples’ mouths.

    The young man may enter the profession either by study in law school or by home study in the office of a practicing lawyer.

    It’s been years since I looked at the requirements for law school but wikipedia (the fount of all knowledge) says that the second option is still available in California, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. (Who knew?)

    Comment by Researcher — October 4, 2011 @ 8:01 am

  2. I did. (Or was that a rhetorical question?)

    Actually, I knew that a person could take the California and Virginia bars after “reading law” but I didn’t know about Vermont or Washington.

    These days dentists keep one hand in peoples’ mouths and the other hand in their pockets.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 4, 2011 @ 8:35 am

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