On July 12, 1849, pathologist, physician, and educator Sir William Osler was born. A visionary of what training in medicine and its practice could become. Osler formulated opinions on medical best practices during his time in the medical schools of Toronto and McGill and Europe. He sought out other physicians with whom to share professional exchange. While Chair of Clinical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Osler became a founding member of the Association of American Physicians.
Soon one of the founding professors at Johns Hopkins Hospital and its first Physician-in-Chief, Osler created the first residency program for specialty training of physicians. He was instrumental in the creation of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and served as its Dean. He instituted clinical clerkship, in which third- and fourth-year students worked with patients on the wards where he popularized the bedside teaching practice of medical students while he made his patient rounds.
Not only did Osler teach in the faculties where he studied, he published papers on everything from blood platelets to endocarditis to skin conditions to meningitis and more. During his Johns Hopkins years, Osler wrote The Principles and Practice of Medicine that became a landmark textbook, going through eight editions in his lifetime and eight thereafter. The breadth, depth, and constancy of his interest in, research, diagnosis, and information sharing of everything medical inspire outstanding doctors to this day. In several countries, his exemplar of excellence in medical preparation and service continues in associations and organizations such as the American Osler Society, McGill Osler Society, and The Osler Club of London.
Energy? You bet. Throughout his working life, Osler also served his colleagues as president of the Canadian Medical Association, American Pediatric Society, Association of American Medical Colleges, Medical Library Association, the Clinical and Historical Sections of the Royal Society of Medicine. And, yes, the Ashmolean Natural History Society!
Even after moving to England and being appointed to the Regius Chair of Medicine at Oxford, Osler continued studying, writing, speaking, and setting his example of physicianship. For his contributions to medicine, medical education, and medical practice, he received honorary doctorates from every major university with a medical faculty and, as well, his English baronetcy.
Over a century after his birth, his name and extraordinary practices continue being honoured in: the Osler Medical Residency Training Program, Osler Center for Clinical Excellence, and the William Osler Professorship of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital; the William Osler Health System, one of Canada’s largest community hospital corporations; the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University; and several Osler societies around the world.
Easy to understand why Sir William Osler is often called the Father of Modern Medicine.
Check out The William Osler Photo Collection that illuminates the life of this remarkable medical visionary. Scrupulously digitized and lovingly detailed, this stellar McGill University Library website is rich in Osler’s family and professional images and biographical nuggets.
The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame provides this brief review of Osler’s life –
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