Saturday, September 25, 2010

War hospital stays made Dawson bacteriologist not surgeon

Not until February 1919, when the war was over, and Henry Dawson was back in Canada facing discharge, did he say that his civilian occupation was to be a MEDICAL student.

Until then, he was just an Arts student.

With his excellent marks, if in 1915 he had told military recruiters that he was intending to go into med school, he would have been almost 'ordered' to remain in school and become a doctor, as they were so desperately needed .

He spent a year in military hospitals as a buck private orderly, dealing with the severely injured and severely infected wounded coming off the battlefields.

Many other patients ,less dramatically, were
nevertheless dying from diseases they had picked up in other places than from a battlefield wound.

Then he was wounded,once as a infantry officer and then once as an artillery officer, both times fairly severely, and spent long periods in various hospitals.

The only heroes in these wound-oriented hospitals were the surgeons - they saved lives by their skill with a good eye and a steady hand.

The nursing staff might save lives by attention to detail in keeping wounds clean.

But regular (clinician) doctors contributed little towards a cure - they could diagnose but didn't have any medicine to save a patient if severe blood poisoning set in.

Bacteria were more dangerous than German bullets.

Interesting, there is no evidence Dawson decided to try and become a surgeon like all the surgeon-heroes he had met in the hospitals, once he was at McGill's Med School.

Instead Dawson quickly became a bacteriologist-pathologist and remained so all his life.

I think he felt that too many of the healthy young boys around him in his stays in hospital had survived their battlefield wound and had survived the surgery , only to die of bacterial infection.

This, he felt, was medicine's weakest link.

He wasn't seeking to emulate his medical heroes, but rather seeking to reform medicine from within.

 I believe he set out with a critical attitude to the existing medical practise - he felt it didn't give enough attention to the successful bacteria's secrets.

I think he saw too many young boys needlessly die who had never danced or ever been kissed...

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