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"I have lately commenced the study of Medicine, and write to consult you on that occasion. What books ought I to read? How shall I read them to most advantage? How many hours daily should be devoted to reading? Is much reading necessary? I am acquainted with several physicians, who, I think, have read but little. I know one who declares that his only guide in the treatment of diseases is his own experience, and that he has never opened a book since he graduated; his friends are of opinion that his reading had been equally extensive before that epoch; and yet he has been extremely successful in business, and has much practice and great reputation. On what branches ought I to attend Lectures during the first session? Is it advisable to take Notes of the Lectures? Is it necessary to attend Clinical Lectures in a Hospital? If necessary, why is it so when we have so many books on the Practice of Medicine? Are Dissections necessary in the study of Anatomy? They must be very disagreeable; would not plates answer in their stead? Is it necessary to pay attention to Medical Auscultation? My old preceptor considers it wholly useless, and says that he can investigate diseases of the chest better without that mode of examination than any one else can with the help of a cart-load of Stethoscopes. What is the general character of our Medical Schools? Does the Medical Profession in this country stand as high in public estimation at present, as it did in former times ? Has it not lost something of its ancient reputation and prestige ?"
Such are some of the inquiries which almost every student of Medicine addresses to those of whom he seeks counsel in relation to the conduct of his professional studies. It is in reply to these and similar questions that the present volume has been prepared. In it are imbodied the opinions and advice respecting certain subjects connected with Medical Education, which the author has long been in the habit of giving to his classes of pupils. Had he been acquainted with any
work in which these subjects are briefly handled, he would have spared himself the labour of writing the following pages. But if there be any treatise of this kind, it seems to be unknown in this part of our country; none such are in the hands of our Medical Students, and none, it is believed, are at this time in our book-stores.
There is no attempt in this work to discuss the entire subject of Medical Education. To do justice to that copious theme would require a much larger volume than the present, and one also far too large for the purpose of the student, already burdened with so weighty a task as the study of Medicine. The only object aimed at is to furnish the young and inexperienced pupil with certain useful precepts and monitions in regard to the labours, the duties, and the opportunities which lie directly before him.
The advice which is offered, will, it is hoped, be found rational and practical, and not too high and difficult for ordinary abilities, and moderate industry. It is students of such abilities, and such industry who are addressed. If there be some of a different grade, they can, perhaps, take care of themselves without assistance from others.
Should some of the doctrines inculcated appear trite and obvious, an apology for that fact may be found in the age and position of those for whom they are intended—not the learned proficients in medical philosophy, but youthful neophytes, who are just entering upon the rudiments of professional science. For such the lessons may be necessary and useful, which to students of larger knowledge and experience would be wholly superfluous. Whatever instruction is given to the pupil in the commencement of his studies, should, in order to be profitable, be simple and elementary; and care should always be taken not to discourage him by insisting on precepts which he is unable to follow, or by enjoining tasks which he is as yet incapable of performing.
Some of the writers on Medical Education have contended-probably for the purpose of magnifying the Medical Profession, and impressing the public with an exalted idea of its character,—that no one can undertake the study of Medicine with any prospect of success unless endowed with great and peculiar genius, and extraordinary acquirements and accomplishments. The author hopes that he may be pardoned for doubting both the truth of this opinion, and the expediency of expressing it. The real dig. nity of the Profession cannot be promoted by pre
tence and exaggeration; rien n'est beau que le vrai ; and it is wiser to endeavour to benefit and improve such students as resort to our Schools than to occupy our thougbts with those who are imagined or dreamed of by theorists and declaimers. The cardinal principles by which all should be guided who attempt to teach, are the love of truth and the desire to be useful.
Little or nothing is said in this volume respecting the literary education of the student—the education which he should receive before he enters on the study of Medicine. This subject is omitted because the discourses are addressed to those who have already commenced that study. The author would, however, take this opportunity of advising all who are engaged, or who expect to be engaged in the Study of Medicine, to read with careful attention the following works, as among the best preparatives of the mind for the successful pursuit of science:
Watts on the Improvement of the Mind;
These books may all be obtained at a very small price from almost any of the book-stores. Happy if