This article was originally called, “Why I Don’t Hate Doctors.”
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Actually, I don’t hate anyone.
“Hatred is self-punishment. Hatred it the coward’s revenge for being intimidated.”
— Hosea Ballou
No, we don’t hate anyone, though we certainly do eschew (neat word, eh?) bad medicine. What is bad medicine? It is medicine that treats symptoms only. It is medicine that injures the patient in the long run. It is medicine that is designed to keep the rich rich and the sick sick. You might want to read our article on the medicine we do love and have proposed, called Rational Medicine.
Before I go on, I should tell you that I grew up in a medical family. I read all about Dr Albert Schweitzer as a kid and I wanted to grow up and save lives too someday. My father was a doctor. He was considered by many to be the best doctor they’d ever attended, and at one time, he had the largest single practice in the Twin Cities (Minnesota) with 9 full-time nurses in his office. All of his associates were doctors. One of his associates was the amazing Dr Milton Erickson, who is often referred to as the Father of Hypnotherapy (there are many, many web sites dedicated to his memory and work). I had some great role models from my early life and from history, but my favorite? Who is my favorite doctor of all?
Let me tell you about my favorite doctor (who we will call Dr B).
Dr B went into private practice in 1900, but a year later applied for, and got, the job of medical inspector for the Department of Health in New York City. Dr B focused on the infant mortality rate and disease prevention. Dr B went from house to house with an entourage of nurses (assigning 83 nurses to do the same things), teaching mothers about nutrition, cleanliness, and ventilation. Babies in those days wore cumbersome clothing and died from the oppressive heat and accidental suffocation; so Dr B designed baby clothing that was light and roomy and opened down the front.
Using the office of the Bureao of Vital Statistics, Dr B and colleagues knew the exact location daily of homes with newborns and visited them as soon an physically possible.
Dr B established standardized inspections of schoolchildren for contagious diseases; insisted that schools needed their own doctors and nurses on staff, set up a system for licensing trained midwives, and though they encouraged breastfeed, Dr B invented a simple baby formula mothers could mix up at home, and, basically, set up a health care system that focused on maintaining health rather than fixing diseases. Dr B created a circular distributed around the city that read, “Ten Bottle-fed Babies Die to One that is Breast Fed.”
Dr B, because of the high rate of infant mortality in orphanages, was the first to theorize that babies who received no cuddling and attention simply died from loneliness. Dr B established the Foster Mother system and the death rates dropped.
In 1909, because older girls were “often forced to assume the care of babies’ lives,” Dr B’s division started founding clubs called, “Little Mothers’ Leagues” that would teach these girls the care and feeding of babies. By 1910 there were 71 of these clubs in the city. And by 1914 Dr B’s Division of Child Hygiene had expanded to employing 697 people, helping to drop the rate of death in children more than 40%, from “from 167.7 per 1,000 population (10,493 deaths) to 99 per 1,000 (7,929 deaths).” [Ref]
When WWI broke out, it put a strain on the American economy and the poor got poorer. Dr B pointed out that it was safer to be in the trenches in France than to be born in New York, as the former (the soldiers) were dying at a rate of 4% while the babies were dying at a rate of 12%. Because of Dr B’s efforts, infant mortality rates in New York dropped lower than any other city in the US and Europe. Even the school lunch program was started up due to Dr B’s efforts. By 1923, the year Dr B retired, it is estimated that the good doctor had saved over 82,000 lives.
But Dr B didn’t stop there. In retirement Dr B helped to establish child hygiene departments in every state in the union; served on 25 medical societies, wrote over 250 articles and five books; served as a consultant to the NY Dept of Health, oversaw the creation of what we now know as the Dept of Health and Human Services; and represented the US on the Health Committee of the League of Nations. Dr B even helped to apprehend Typhoid Mary (twice).
Who is this wonderful doctor? Why haven’t you heard of this doctor before? Well, for one reason, our history usually discounts the merits and accomplishments of this type of person. What type of person? you ask.
There is a car accident. His father was driving and was killed on impact. He’s a young boy, in critical condition, and needs surgery. He’s wheeled into emergency and is prepped for immediate surgery. The doctor arrives, looks down, and says, “I can’t operate on this boy. He’s my son.”
If you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s because you, and I were all raised in a patriarchal society. The answer is: the doctor is his mother. Yes, women are doctors too.
So, here is who Dr B actually is.
Dr B is Dr Sara Josephine Baker, a woman—a brilliant woman with few, if any, contemporaries. She was a true healer. And it’s about time you all knew of her and her accomplishments. (Now where the heck is Paul Harvey to tell us, “And now you know the REST of the story”?)
And the take-away from this story should be that this physician saved all these lives with a minimal the use of drugs, opting to use education, hygiene, nutrition, and love.
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