This I Believe

Menzies, P. K.

  • P. K. Menzies describes his belief in the physician's responsibility to treat his patients with respect and dignity, and explains how his study of the intricate workings of the human body formed his belief that the universe must have been designed by a "supreme architect."
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And now, This I Believe, the living philosophies of thoughtful men and women, presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Dr. P. K. Menzies was formerly Chief Surgeon on the staff of the Memorial and the General Hospitals in Syracuse, New York. He is the emeritus professor of clinical surgery at the Syracuse University College of Medicine. Now, here is Dr. Menzies.
While it is true that we all owe much to our forebears in the way of physical characteristics and mental capacity, I believe that we owe still more to our environment and context, especially in the earlier years of our intellectual development.
All through life I feel that I have been most fortunate in these. Two of my father’s brothers were physicians, and it was through them that I first got the idea that I would like to study medicine. I was about 10 years old at the time. A few years later in our Dakota village, I received from my teacher the stimulus and encouragement to persevere with my plan. This young man had graduated from a large Eastern university. Why he was teaching in the Western village school I often wondered but never found out.
Another most valuable contact was made with a young doctor during my final years in medical school. He had just returned from several years of post-graduate study abroad. Being the low man on the totem pole, he was assigned to the Monday morning
outpatient clinic in medicine. This was the least desirable in the week. The students avoided it, if possible, and the only patients who came were the derelicts, and alcoholics recovering from a bad weekend.
It was from this young doctor that I first got an insight into the art of the practice of medicine. To him, each patient presented a fresh problem, and was investigated and studied accordingly. At the same time, we were never allowed to lose sight of the fact that each and every patient was a human being and had every right to be treated as such. It was a fine demonstration for us, his students, to watch him examine and treat the poorest indigent with the same sympathy and kindly consideration as he would
show toward his wealthiest private patient. His success was remarkable. Word got around, and within the year his Monday clinic was crowded with students, as well as patients. Scientific medicine received a boost, but by far the most lasting result was the effect it had on us, his students, our outlook on life, and the realization of our responsibilities as young medical men.
I do not mean to infer that sympathy, kindness, and consideration alone will produce a first-class physician. However, it has been my privilege to have known and worked with some of the greatest surgeons of this and other continents. Invariably they have possessed these attributes.
As a rule, medical men are not deeply religious, but rarely do we find one who is an atheist. Let us stop and remember that the
body of each of us, with all its marvelous and complicated structure, started to develop in the first day of our existence from one single cell. Let us consider, too, for example, the complicated interaction and mutual dependence of our ductless glands, one on the other. With this feeble understanding of a very small part of the universe, it would be impossible for me, personally, to doubt the existence of a supreme architect. The more I consider the matter, the more amazing and wonderful does the whole scheme of things become. Yet, I would still have the temerity to believe that I, in some small way, must be a part of it.
That was Dr. P. K. Menzies, who was born in Ontario, Canada eighty-six years ago. He lives now in Syracuse, New York.