Emulating Hippocrates


I have been a hospital physician for the past five years. “Hospitalists,” they call us. It has been my job to admit sick patients to the hospital and stabilize their diseases to the point that they should reasonably be able to leave the hospital without having to get acutely rushed back in. I am not sure it has ever been considered a part of my job to actually heal a patient.

The National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has translated the classical Hippocratic Oath from its original Greek form. They rightly point out that the phrase “First, do no harm” is not a part of the original oath. They also rightly point out that most medical schools, including my own alma mater, graduate their students on some modernized version of the oath.

One thing is for certain, I don’t recall having been taught enough while obtaining my M.D. to be able to confidently declare this: “I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment…” Or perhaps the simple fact is that my greatest ability and judgment have left much to be desired.

Between this and other aspects of the oath, I feel compelled to start again. So as of yesterday I signed a contract to embark on my new journey as a primary care physician beginning this fall, where I can get ahead of the acute illnesses I have been treating in the hospital, and readjust my focus to healing patients, instead of just stabilizing disease. I look forward to inviting patients to take this journey with me, as “in purity and according to divine law will I carry out my life and my art.” It is a new journey based on an old oath, but it starts today.

“So long as I maintain this Oath faithfully and without corruption, may it be granted to me to partake of life fully and the practice of my art, gaining the respect of all men for all time. However, should I transgress this Oath and violate it, may the opposite be my fate.”

Hippocratic Oath – NLM NIH