Diary of a Busy Doctor

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Being a doctor in 1908 is a far cry from the easy life we have today as physicians. A page from a Chicago family physician, C.H. Bryan, MD diary recently was printed in JAMA. Let me quote a part of it. Dr. Smith was sitting by his fire one night about 11 o’clock. The frosty wind outside was whistling around the corners and driving the snow into drifts and sifting it under doors. The doctor was telling his faithful wife about how much time he could have saved in the past 20 years if he had been able to use an automobile during that time. He was telling her how from now on he expected to get more enjoyment from life because he could save half his time on the road.

“Just think, Mary, I went 20 miles to see Farmer Jones and back again almost in two hours. Doesn’t that seem impossible? Now, I will be able to get home in a warm meal occasionally and make up some of the sleep I have lost during the past twenty years.’ Just then the bell rang. Do not go out to-night, my dear, said his wife; besides you know you have a cold. A man was at his door who had just come 25 miles on horseback. His face showed the effects of his battle with the storm. His fur overcoat and cap, well pulled up over his ears, were white from the drifting snow. For God’s sake, Doctor, go to my wife at once. I doubt if she will live until you get there.”

His entry goes on to explain how when he gets to his car parked in the barn it has a flat tire and it takes him an hour to change it. Then the starting crank will not turn because it is frozen so they have to take another hour to make a fire in the kitchen to heat water to thaw out the water pump. Once on the road his radiator freezes causing another hour delay. It is not until 4 am that he arrives at his patient’s home to find that a nearby physician saved her life. In reading this entry I will think twice before complaining about the horrible traffic that makes me 5 minutes late to work.

 

Terry Pfau DO, HMD