The Making of the Medical Mindset: Osler’s Law

By | May 21, 2015

Sir William Osler was one of the most famous physicians of the last part of the 19th century.  His views on the importance of bedside diagnosis and teaching still form the basis of clinical and post-graduate medical education.

Sir William Osler was one of the most famous physicians of the last part of the 19th century. His views on the importance of bedside diagnosis and teaching still form the basis of clinical and post-graduate medical education.

As we near the end of our long series of blogs on the making of the medical mindset and its impact on decisions related to surgery of the lumbar spine, there are a couple topics that remain to be discussed. Today I would like to discuss Osler’s Law, a diagnostic maxim taught to medical students early in their third year of study when they first enter the clinics and the hospital wards.

Sir William Osler was one of the most famous physicians of the latter part of the 19th century. In 1889 he was named the first Physician-in-Chief of the new Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland and four years later along with Welch, Halsted and Kelly was one of the four founding fathers of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His teaching methods and emphasis on beside instruction were considered revolutionary at the time and still form the basis of clinical and post-graduate medical education today.

Osler taught his students that if a patient presents 5 different symptoms, don’t give him 5 different diagnoses, rather find the one condition that will explain all of his complaints. It is still one of the basic tenets of medical diagnosis.

I am sorry about the lateness of this post, but although we have been extremely busy here at Schlesinger Pain Centers I wanted to get this out today as a lead-in to a series of blogs on neurological diagnosis that will begin tomorrow.


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