My daughter lives in Philadelphia and when I visit, I often gain insights through the history that is down every block and around every corner.
This recent visit, I was walking to the hotel and came across America's first hospital (founded in 1751.) It's a beautiful building, but that's not what stood out to me.
As I delved into the history of this important building (and institution), I was inspired and amazed by two things:
- From 1751 until 1756, the hospital was functioning, but the building itself was still being constructed. The hospital staff cared for patients in -- get this -- the judge's house down the street.
- Once the hospital building was constructed, Dr. Thomas Bond (the co-founder of the hospital, along with Benjamin Franklin) began seeing patients. As you can imagine, these were uncertain times and the newness of the hospital endeavor must have been stressful and overwhelming. Even in this context, though, Dr. Bond began taking medical students on ward rounds. His brave focus on teaching the next generation began the clinical study of medicine in America -- and the tradition of "rounds" as a core part of medical education.
All of this is interesting, surely, but may seem to apply little to the modern practice of medicine. But I think there are some important commonalities.
At the time of the hospital's founding, there was a fast-growing city and a country that was still decades from taking shape. This stressful, overwhelming, and uncertain time mimics our time of new technologies, shifting medical landscapes, and the need to do a lot with little resources.
In the same way that patients had to be seen at the judge's house while the hospital was built, doctors today will go above and beyond to care for patients -- often with never-enough time and never-enough resources. In the same way that Dr. Bond forged a new way of teaching medicine through rounds and observations not books -- doctors today use a telemedicine technology like iClickCare to change how medicine is taught -- as well as how patients are cared for.
In all cases, these courageous providers "make the path by walking" rather than waiting until conditions are ideal or until they have the support of the bureaucracy. They didn't wait for institutional support or funding for each piece. There wasn't always the immediate promise of reward.
We applaud all of our brave colleagues who practice medicine and innovate in that practice -- both those in our history and those today.