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THE O. Æ. SOCIETY.
Fifth Annual Re-Union, Feb. 26, 1869.
The fifth annual reunion of this flourishing Society took place on the evening of the 26th of Feb., 1869, at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College. The day had been obscured by fast falling snowflakes, and dark heavy clouds threatened seriously to interfere with the general promises of the programme; but long before the appointed hour the forbidding clouds rolled away to the west, the moon shone out bright and clear, and at half-past seven the large lecture-room of the college was filled with a galaxy of beauty and intelligence. Shortly before eight o'clock the faculty filed in from their rooms, and were greeted with hearty and long-continued rounds of applause.
The Rev. Dr. ALFRED B. BEACH opened the exercises of the evening with an appropriate invocation to the Throne of Grace; after which the President of the Society, Dr. PHILIP WOOLF, delivered the annual address, in which a brief sketch of the aims and objects of the Society was given, as well as some sound advice to those who had just received their degrees. The President felt assured that the cominon opinion prevailing among young graduates that the older practitioners were their tacit enemies, envious of their success, or oblivious to their merits, was a mistake. The conscientious young practitioner has really no better friends than his seniors in the profession.
Professor LEWIS A. SAYRE then addressed the Society as follows: Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. President, and Members of the 0. Æ.
Society: You have been kind enough to invite me to address you upon this, the fifth anniversary of your Society. A society organized for such noble purposes as I understand yours to be, namely the mutual literary and professional culture of its members, deserves and should obtain a high position. Viewing your Society in this light, I take pleasure in complying with your request to address you with a few remarks. The next question is, what shall be the theme to which I shall call your attention during the few minutes allotted to me this evening? In casting about for a suitable subject, it has just occurred to me that as the most of you are now, in a few days, to assume new duties and responsibilities of the practical exercise of the profession of your choice, and having passed over some little distance on the same road in advance of you, it seems proper that from my present stand-point, I should take a hasty glance over the road just travelled, back to my early starting point, to the place you are just now entering, and see if I can give you any advice, to guard you against the shoals and quick-sands which may endanger your professional future, and guide you in the sure path to usefulness and honor.
Too many in our profession in assuming this new responsibility in accepting the degree, make the fatal error of thinking that they have ceased to be students when they become practicing physicians. A more fatal error could not be committed. It is sure to lead to a low degree of professional standing, and it is dangerous to all those patients who may be so unfortunate as to employ a physician who has so low an estimate of his professional responsibilities and obligations.
While engaged in your college curriculum, if you fail to apply yourselves with diligence to your studies, no one is injured by it but yourselves; the community is not endangered by your ignorance. We, the professors, stand as a guard between you and the people. But when we grant you the degree, giving you the authority to practice, having found after a careful examination that you are conversant with the science up to its present stand-point, you must then recollect that you have assumed the responsibility of keeping yourselves upon the very crest of the tidal wave of its continual advancement.
Medicine is not one of the exact sciences—fortunately it is not—and from this very fact you have constant opportunities for study and improvement. Each day our science is gradually approaching exactitude, our knowledge is growing more minute and perfect, our ability to successfully treat disease more certain. These improvements and new lights your patients
have a right to demand a knowledge of in you; and it can only be obtained by a constant devotion to study. As soon as you cease to be students, you should, as a matter of conscience, cease to be practitioners. Though knowledge be the first essential requisite for the practice of our divine art, there must be beyond and above this, correct principles to guide us in using it rightfully. You must be governed always by the most rigid virtue and the strictest veracity; your character must be pure, and your honor above reproach, otherwise the power derived from knowledge thus obtained will only serve to make you dangerous members of the community. The whole object of your life, the whole motive of your ambition, should be the most speedy removal of disease and the best application of the most accurately ascertained plans and principles of the treatment of disease in the various cases that may be entrusted to your care. Let this be the governing principle of your professional life, and not the gain or profit which may be made by it as a trade, and it will certainly lead you to professional distinction and well-deserved honor.
In all your intercourse with your professional brethren, be courteous and honorable, being neither sycophantic and servile, nor arrogant and dictatorial. Maintain with dignity the true honor of your profession, and never permit ignorance, even should it be found in high places, to be detrimental to the best interests of your patients. The first few years of your professional life will probably not be overtaxed by attention to the wealthy or the great. Persons of wealth or fixed position are generally already in the hands of professional men of established reputation and position. In the hovels of the poor, in the cellars, back alleys and garrets of the city, most of your time will be spent, or if your location should be in the country, your patients will most likely be found in small cottages or hamlets of the more sparsely settled sections of your district, and not in the princely mansion of the lordly millionaire, whose pompous show of wealth commands the admiration of the villagers for miles around. But remember that whatever contrast may exist in the worldly position between the pauper and the prince, their physical frame with all their delicate and intricate organization is governed by the same laws, made by the same
Almighty hand. The great centripetal idea of humanity,
A man's a man for a' that an' a' that!” should never be forgotten. Your duty, therefore, as physicians, is to give to these poor patients, who may apply to you for relief, the same skill, care and attention as if they were the wealthiest persons in the land. You may probably receive no pecuniary compensation for your labor, or at most, but little, but you will have the greater and higher satisfaction of having at least conferred the benefits of scientific skill, upon a poor suffering fellow-creature. To have saved or prolonged a life which but for the application of that skill would have had an untimely end, or to have restored a malformed useless cripple to all the beautiful symmetry of his natural proportions, giving him thereby the opportunity of being a self-sustaining as well as a self-enjoying and useful member of the community, will give you more pleasure and satisfaction as honorable physicians than all the wealth you might obtain by pandering to the prejudices and desires of the vicious. The gratitude of these poor people for the benefits thus conferred, will find vent in tongues of warmest praise and appreciation of justly deserved honor, which without resort to the puffing and newspaper advertisements of the designing charlatan, will in due course of time bring your proper merits to the just appreciation of the wealthy and the great, who will in turn seek your advice and counsel wben you have by this means proved that it is better than they can get elsewhere.
You have displayed so much good taste in inviting this beautiful array of the fair daughters of our city to be present at your anniversary this evening, that I feel that it is entirely unnecessary for me to give you any advice about one of the most important and necessary acts of your professional life, namely, the selection of some one fair damsel as a companion to share your joys, and sympathize with you in your sorrows May your choice be such that the idea of England's great poet may be realized :
“O blest with temper, whose unclouded ray
She who ne'er answers till a husband cools,
By a careful consideration and proper application of these few hasty thoughts, I feel confident that your distinction will be such as to confer honor upon your alma mater and be looked upon with pride and satisfaction by all the future members of the 0. Æ. Society.
Next in order came the regular toasts of the evening. The toast to “The Ladies” was responded to by Prof. Geo. T. Elliot as follows:
A sincere friend said to me to-day : “My dear fellow, I hear that you are to respond for the ladies this evening. You have my sympathy.” I thanked him, and acknowledged that I needed it; and so do I confess, confidentially, to you all, that I have need of yours, and especially now when my friend
, Sayre has included my toast with his own in his comprehensive grasp.
It is a serious thing to speak for woman just when she is about to break that long silence which has distinguished her through the lapse of ages, and to speak for herself. Let us hope that, if she bring to future discussions the terrible earnestness and directness of purpose which she displayed in the apple question, at least she will select topics less fraught with woe to man.
Perhaps this may be one of the last toasts to woman to which a man may respond. The time may be at hand when this is to be superseded by one which will even now, we trust, cause their veins to tingle, and when we may hear, in soft, melodious cadence, from the lips of beauty—“The gentlemen, God bless them!”
With women arguing metaphysics in the pulpit, managing political majorities, directing the press, and wielding the scalpel in sick-rooms, there is but a step to the remaining fields of labor, and there may be some girlish face here present, covered only with mantling blushes, which may groove, its furrows amid the responsibilities of the senate-chamber, or in expounding the majesty of the law.
Who shall paint the dawn of this era, so full of the fruition of woman's joys and privileges ? The palette of another Guido must furnish the brilliant colors. Still Aurora, with rosytipped fingers, will marshal the procession ; still the feminine