Excerpt 2

With a single exception they were all white. And with five exceptions all male.

Some were brilliant bordering on genius. Other, genius bordering on madness. One had played a cello-recital at Carnegie Hall; another had played a year of professional basketball. Six had written novels, two of which had actually been published. One was a lapsed priest. One was a graduate of reform school. All were scared to death.

What had brought them together on this bright September morning in 1958 was their status as first-year students at Harvard Medical School. They had gathered in Room D to hear a welcoming address by Dean Courtney Holmes.

His features could have come straight from a Roman coin. And his demeanor gave the impression that he had been born with a gold watch and chain instead of an umbilical cord.

He did not have to call for quiet. He merely smiled and the spectators hushed.

“Gentlemen,” he began,” you are collectively embarking on a great voyage to the frontiers of medical knowledge – which is where you will begin your own individual explorations in the yet-uncharted territory of suffering and disease. Someone sitting in this room may find a cure for leukemia, diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus and the deadly hydra-headed carcinomas …”

He took a perfectly timed dramatic pause. And with a sparkle in his pale blue eyes he added,” Perhaps even the common cold.”

There was appreciative laughter.

Then the silver-haired dean lowered his head, perhaps to signify that he was deep in thought. The students waited in suspense.

When at last he looked up and began to speak again, his voice was softer, an octave lower.  “Let me conclude by disclosing a secret – as humbling for me to reveal as for you to hear.”

He turned and wrote something on the blackboard behind him.

Two simple digits – the number twenty-six.

A buzz of bewilderment filled the room.

Holmes waited for quiet to return, drew breath, and then gazed straight into the spellbound auditorium.

“Gentlemen, I urge you to engrave this on the template of your memories: there are thousands of diseases in this world, but Medical Science only has an empirical cure for twenty-six of them. The rest is … guesswork.”

And that was all.

With military posture and athletic grace, he strode off the podium and out of the room.  The crowd was too dazzled to applaud.

Prologue – Doctors, Erich Segal

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17 thoughts on “Excerpt 2

  1. Hira Khalid says:

    seriously only 26!? O.O

    • Anas Shafqat says:

      That is almost 50 years back. But even now, we don’t know how to treat many diseases. They are like a hydra: when you cut one head, two more heads appear. Ironical.

  2. Hira Khalid says:

    sure z.
    2 bad dat in 50 yrz ov medical n all dat advancemntz all v cud achieve were more diseases!

  3. Anas Shafqat says:

    Well identification of diseases is the first step .. treatment comes next.

  4. Hira says:

    yea treatmnt dz n also otha diseases. sum tymz wid dat treatmnt.

  5. Anas Shafqat says:

    Medical science is far from perfect. Cures leading to more diseases is common; but then, each human has a unique body. Disparities are bound to occur.

  6. Hira says:

    no denying dat
    m m reffering 2 case whr d diseases r caused by doctrz treating.

  7. Anas Shafqat says:

    That is criminal negligience. And, as you must know, in abroad, people can actually sue doctors. But in Pakistan, sadly, the court dockets are overflowing already .. so naturally there aren’t any cases filed against doctors. But, yes – PMDC that is Pakistan Medical and Dental Council has the right to abrogate the degree of any doctor which it believes to be indulged in any activity that is against medical ethics.

  8. Hira says:

    plz dun tok abt criminal negligence m reli tired ov dat term after law ppr. n ovb i knw abt d sueing thing abroad n m nt discussing doctz abroad m tokin abt hea in Pakistan gud doctorz r scarce here!

  9. Anas Shafqat says:

    How can you say that good doctors are scarce here?

  10. Hira says:

    experience n observation. i told u dat!

  11. Hira says:

    bt u 4got observation.
    m nt sayn all docs r bad. jus d majority. lol u r gettin quite sensitive on dis matr :p

  12. Hira says:

    dats y i said nt all docz r bad. i hav 4 doctrz in ma immediate family :p
    bt dat dznt mean dat d bad 1z rnt bad or i wudnt call em bad!
    n i knw its guna b ur profession. b such a doc dat no 1 has d face 2 critisize dis profession in4nt ov u!!! =)

  13. Hira says:

    obv :p
    bt its still gud 2 hear :p

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