‘Healing’Papa would tell me,‘is not a sciencebut the intuitive Artof wooing Nature.’
The Art of Healing (In Memoriam David Protech, M.D.)
W H Auden
My friendly German elective student, explaining the nuances of Gemütlichkeit, suggested ‘atmosphere’ in response to my suggestion of ‘aura’ or ‘charm’. ‘Think of steamers on the Rhine and castles and beer and sausages and oompah pah bands,’ he said helpfully. It is also clear that the geniality, the homey comfortableness, can be contrived and false as well as genuine and engaging. No part of the student course addresses ‘How to be a Doctor’ because it is an impossibly pompous thing to talk about. You could hardly be addressed by someone who doesn't believe they have the answer; and that sounds smug. But, then, by a process of self-selection, many doctors avoid significant contact with people. Maybe they recognize that that part of medicine is less attractive to them, perhaps because they also recognize these interpersonal issues. However, the front-line troops of medicine do need to be able to cope with, communicate with, and understand people, and empathize, sympathize, counsel, and console. I worry about how well we teach that.