Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

July 6, 2011

The Power of Observation

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 6:04 am




My father (who did not specialize in Public Health) relates that, while in Med School in the 1930’s, his professor of Clinical Biochemistry pontificated thus:


“As physicians, you must use all your powers of observation to reach the correct diagnosis. Your patients’ lives will depend on it. For example – – – ”


He reached under the counter and placed before him a chemistry flask containing yellow liquid.


“This is urine from a patient on the wards. Of course, you can look at it to see how dilute it is, but there is more you can do. You have other tools available to you, also. For instance – – – ”


He dipped his finger into the liquid. Then, dramatically, he put his finger into his mouth, rolled his eyes ceiling-ward in thought, and said:


“ – – – it’s sweet. There’s sugar in this urine. The patient has diabetes.”


He picked up the flask.


“This is an important lesson. You will all taste as I did.”


So he handed the flask to the student at the end of the first row, and the urine began its slow odyssey among the fledgling Med Students. Presumably, the professor moved on to another subject while the flask made its way among the cringing faces.


When it finished its rounds among the grimacing students, the professor placed it on his counter again and stared at his class.


“This was an important lesson,” he emphasized, “about the power of observation. Had you observed me closely, you would have seen that I inserted my index finger into the urine – – – ”


He held up his index finger – – –


“ – – – and inserted my ring finger into my mouth. Class dismissed.”

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: