Raffensperger’s book promotes compassion, empathy for the ill
When John Raffensperger was in high school, one of the required books to read in his English class was entitled “Rab and his Friends,” written by John Brown, a 17th century doctor from Scotland.
That story, in part, ultimately led Raffensperger to become a physician himself.
“The main event in ‘Rab’ was an operation performed in 1830 by James Syme, who later became the mentor and father-in-law of Joseph Lister, the man who discovered antisepsis and banished surgical infections,” said Raffensperger, a resident of Sanibel. “It was a very important milestone in the history of surgeries.”
Another story, entitled “A Doctor at the Old School,” vividly portrays a country physician who practiced in the Scottish Highland. It was written by Ian MacLaren.
“He was compassionate, dedicated and honest,” Raffensperger added. “All qualities which reflect Edinburgh teaching.”
Both stories meant so much to him over the years that, following several decades worth of research, Raffensperger finally compiled both stories into a single collection, entitled “Two Scottish Tales of Medical Compassion,” which also includes a history of the Edinburgh School of Medicine penned by Raffensperger himself.
“These two short stories … should be required reading for every aspiring doctor,” explained Raffensperger, who was a surgeon-in-chief at the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Ill. as well as a professor of surgery at Northwestern University. “They illustrate aspects of medical education, scientific achievement and the humanistic approach to medicine which made the Edinburgh School the most distinguished English-speaking medical center of the 19th century.”
“Rab and his Friends” is the story of a young apprentice who watches a grueling surgery and is struck by the kindness of the attending physician. “A Doctor of the Old School” is about a Highland country doctor who devotes his life to caring for others. Both stories reflect the type of doctor that was trained at the Edinburgh School, as well as the ideals being taught there.
The commentary by Raffensperger, entitled “A Brief History of the Edinburgh School of Medicine,” not only gives perspective for the stories and a background of the authors and characters, but also emphasizes how the Edinburgh principles of compassion furthered the science of medicine.
“These stories and the lessons they teach are valuable tools for any modern physician to rely on,” Raffensperger noted. “Periodic reading by mature physicians will remind us that compassion and kindness are the cornerstones of our profession.”
Raffensperger has authored several surgical textbooks, a history of the Cook County Hospital, a collection of short stories and “Diamonds of Death,” a self-described “surgical thriller.”
“Two Scottish Tales of Medical Compassion” may be purchased locally at The Island Book Nook (2330 Palm Ridge Road on Sanibel) or online at www.amazon.com. For additional information, visit www.cosimobooks.com.