As I was growing up, we had a kindly old family doctor who would make house calls if you couldn’t come to his office (yes, I’m that old). When he retired, his son took over the practice and took care of me during my anxiety-ridden teenage years. There was a time when I had difficulty sleeping and Doc Jr. prescribed warm milk with a drop or two of vanilla before bed. Although I can’t prove it, I’m pretty sure he’s the doctor on whom the character Marcus Welby, MD was based.
Fast forward to more recent times, and medicine (even on TV) is a bit different. One of my favorite fictional docs is Gregory House, whose medical genius far surpasses his bedside manner. With his A-Team of talented young physicians in tow, House solves the most difficult diagnostic puzzles, often trying 3 or 4 off-the-wall treatments before finding the correct one. His best line to a patient? “You’re going to die, but at least we know why.”
The medical profession has known since Galen that classroom knowledge can take you only so far; actual practice on real humans is the only way to grow the experience base and nurture the requisite intuition. When my primary care physician begins a statement with “In my 16 years of practice….”, I feel reassured. I’ve checked, and the Physician’s Desk Reference doesn’t list warm milk with vanilla as a substitute for Xanax.