Chancellor Michael F. Collins delivered the Worcester District Medical Society’s 217th Annual Oration, “From Flexner to Worcester: Medicine’s Next Century Dawns” on Wednesday, Feb. 13, using the metaphor of the landmark Flexner Report, the 1910 book-length study of medical education in the United States that created a new paradigm for how physicians were trained to talk about the history—and future—of life sciences education and research. As the Flexner Report laid the framework for the creation of a single, unified model for medical education with an emphasis on the scientific basis of medical practice, new advances in understanding disease and its origins now inform contemporary medical education.
The oration, delivered to members of the Worcester District Medical Society at the Beechwood Hotel, is one of the most revered traditions in medicine in the region. The first oration was delivered in 1795, just a year after the founding of the WDMS.
“As we look to the future,” Chancellor Collins noted, “I can’t help but recall Sir Luke Fildes’ painting of the ‘The Doctor,’ a work inspired by the devotion of a physician who sat by Fildes’ son’s side as he suffered and died of tuberculosis in 1877. This painting adorns the wall in each of my offices as a constant reminder of the covenantal relationship that exists between physician and patient.
“As we educate the next generation of physicians, we accept a sacred obligation as we profess our oaths to care for our patients and to educate those who come behind us in our profession. As the doctor sat beside the patient in 1877, there were no antibiotics, no advanced radiologic techniques, no sophisticated inpatient units and no prepaid health plans,” he said. “As the child suffers and the parents grieve in anticipation of their loss, the physician attends to their most intimate needs and vulnerabilities. . . There is but caring and compassion.”