The second of a Series of Articles on Choosing a Girl’s Vocation.
ETHEL M. CHAPMANNovember11919
If She Wants To Be a Doctor
WOMEN AND THEIR WORK
The second of a Series of Articles on Choosing a Girl’s Vocation.
ETHEL M. CHAPMAN
THIS stork had made his peril-
ous passage w i t h safety, and the girl doctor was getting the new baby ready for its first sleep.
She made an unusual picture with her white gown and pink cheeks and burnished red hair under the light. She was only twentyfour years old but she worked with the deftness and assurance of training and experience, and the mother’s praises of her skill always ended with the tribute “And she’s
so lovely and restful to have around.” Perhaps just that in itself contributed more to her success than either she or her patients knew. She is a specialist in another line now with some remarkable cures to her credit, but the sunny, sympathetic, natural personality remains unspoiled.
There was another girl who graduated and started a practice when she was quite young. She was ambitious and highly efficient—so much so that she was soon performing operations with a skill that rather staggered older heads in the profession. These older doctors were not surprised when she announced her plans to specialize in surgery. It was her social friends who were shocked. They could not reconcile their impression of the operating-room with the winsome girl who always looked as though she might be setting out for the tennis-court instead of going to see some patient whose life, so far as material considerations go, depended on her skill and judgment.
After about two years’ general practice in Toronto she went to take up surgery in the Women’s Medical College at Ludhiana, India. When the war began she volunteered for service in the military hospitals. Her work in India had given her a high standing and she was the first Canadian woman surgeon appointed by the British War Office. The Hospital records show a long list of limbs saved and broken bodies made whole and perfect through the miracles of her hands but hospital records like other records tell only a part of the story. Her value on the hospital staff consisted not only in her efficiency but in her sparkle and character; she was a wholesome, womanly presence in the ward. The boys whom she was able to save received something more than surgical treatment—an inspiring encouragement that the standards they had tried to keep were right. And'those whom she could not save, went out more comforted, no doubt, because she was there—for the woman who makes a successful doctor acquires a wonderful understanding of human troubles and how to help them.
CO when we consider the question of ° what natural qualities a girl must have in order to be a good doctor, we would not put first, what are commonly called “masculine” qualities. Even the girl who faints during her first observation lesson in the operating-room need not worry, some men students have done it and have turned out to be excellent surgeons afterwards. But the girl must have good nerves and hands that can b" trained to be skilful and steady, a brain caoable of mastering some rather eomolicated studies in science, a love for humanity and a personality that insnires confidence. Tt meant a "Teat deal to the nervous little mother that her girl doctor was “so
lovely and restful to have around.” The study and practice of medicine does not of itself interfere with a woman’s naturalness. The woman doctor who lets it do this in an effort to be “p r o -fessional,” sacrifices one of the finest traits she could bring to her work.
Next to the matter of personal fitness comes the question of what special education is required and what it will cost. The standard set for the M. D. degree seems to be
steadily going up. Last year at the University of Toronto it was increased from five to six years. The fees are one hundred and fifty dollars a year and there is the cost of books and board besides. It is difficult to set any definite estimate on these because the cost of board varies apisreciably with conditions, and the economical student may save a considerable amount by buying second-hand books.
THEN comes the inevitable question: “Is the medical profession for W’Omen overcrowded, or are there reasonable chances for advancement?” The profession is assuredly not overcrowded; the more successful women doctors there are the more popular will the woman doctor become. It was the first one or two women who took their degrees and set out to build up a practice in a city where the woman doctor was a strange thing to the people, it was these pioneers who had a hard time. They had to work against a popular prejudice, but they didn’t let it -discourage them and the confidence won by the ability and character of the finest of these women has paved the way for the girl entering the profession today. If there were any serious lack of faith in the woman-doctor now, we would not have, in one Canadian city, about thirty of them, each handling a thriving practice, and women specialists in obstetrics, orthopedics, nose and throat, and nerve diseases each ranking well with the men specialists in her own line. It is rather strange that few of the women doctors make a specialty of children’s troubles—perhaps this is one of the greatest opportunities awaiting the girl entering the prefession today. It would be something rather big, ten or twenty years from now, to be rated as one of the country's leading child specialists, wouldn’t it?
DUT there are other lines of medical Lí work apart from actual practice looming up for the future. Every where people’s minds are turning more and more to health protection instead of waiting to have a trouble cured after the disease has established itself. One of the objects of the municipal hospital scheme in the West is to have “health centres” throughout the country where people will learn to come regularly for advice—where they will learn to correct a wrong way of living before it has had time to seriously affect their health, and where inevitable troubles may be cured in their early stages. The idea is so sane that it can scarcely help catching on and spreading to other provinces. An Ontario doctor expresses the opinion that the time will come when the Department of Health of this province will have its Flealth Teachers in every municipality just as the Department of Agriculture has its representative in every county. The field of the Health Teacher’s work might ex-
tend to emergency calls and almost anything, as the scope of such an office usually does, but it would properly be the teaching of the health-care of the family in the home, public and home and school sanitation, the teaching of home nursing classes and whatever else the time and occasion might require. The medical inspection of school children, which is already being made a constant, permanent thing in Ontario, and being extended to all the provinces will always, properly, be the work of a woman doctor. Then, with the new child welfare movement sweeping the country, baby clinics are going to require the services of a lot of women doctors who can give all their time to it.
And what of the unusual lines like the work which Dr. Annie Ross has been doing in connection with Macdonald Institute? She isn’t the college doctor, though when any of the girls are ill she usually directs the nursing on her own account—but she takes charge of their physical culture; and she teaches physiology in a way that has an ethical as well as a physical importance; and she teaches home nursing and child study and is, in general, a guiding personality about the place.....Dr.
Helen MacMurchy’s work for the feebleminded and as Inspector of Public Institutions may be primarily the expression of a big soul and a natural understanding of human nature, but she couldn’t have done it without her professional training. There is no doubt about the future of the medical profession for women.
IN the first article of this series we mentioned that the serious-minded girl, considering the possibilities of any vocation, would not be satisfied with something that simply offered an interesting and remunerative future for herself. She would also ask “Will it help anyone else—be of any real service to humanity?” The question is already partly answered. The red-haired girl doctor realized keenly just of how much service it was, every time she met the stork on a dangerous trip and brought the two lives through safely. She realizes it now as an orthopedic specialist every time she takes a maimed or crooked limb in her hands and makes it straight and perfect, every time a child with an arm hanging limp from infantile paralysis comes to the hospital for treatment and goes away able to use that arm almost as well as the other. The girl surgeon in the military hospital knew whether her profession was of any service every time a mangled body was put on her table and carried away mended with incredible skill, with every chance of going back into the world whole and uncrippled and able to enjoy living. Oh, there’s no question about the usefulness.
But we must mention one special line of missionary work where some of our Canadian women doctors have been most helpful—the work in the Women’s Christian Medical College at Ludhiana, India. Dr. Margaret Patterson, who was the first Canadian on the staff, and who has since devoted a great deal of interest to securing help for the College from Canada, says that “A mission hospital and dispensary is a laboratory of ChristianityIt is a well-known fact that the death rate in maternity cases in India is appallingly high; and it is not surprising when we consider that at the present time in India there is less than one trained woman of any degree, doctor, nurse or midwife, for three hundred thousand women of the population. As most of the native women are in Purdah they can of course be cared for only by women, so it is the purpose of the College to train native young women to go out and practise among their own people. We see how practical this plan is when we know that one doctor in the College trains one hundred and forty-seven native girls. Incidentally, the doctor gets some valuable experience for himself. The Canadian women who have been on the staff are Dr. Margaret Patterson; Dr. Edna Guest, who volunteered for military service at the beginning of the war and was the first Canadian woman surgeon appointed by the British War Office—she is now returning to Canada; nurse Edith MacAlpine, and Miss Idonea Nourse; Dr. Susan Fotheringham, who died during the influenza epidemic in India last fall. Dr. Fotheringham was a gifted musician as well as a clever doctor and the native girls and the College staff miss her music as much as her work. Dr. Mary Roberts, a specialist in surgery. Dr. Annabel McEwen and Dr. Anna Otta, with nurses Kathleen Tucker and Flora Alexander, are still in India.
One more question the girl will ask herself—(we are so foolish about some things that she might hesitate to ask anyone else) : “If I am married will it
make me a better homemaker and wife and mother?” Well, one of a woman’s big problems in her own home is taking care of the health of her family, isn’t it? A doctor knows how to do that. And a mother should be infinitely wise in understanding people—that is another part of a doctor’s work. Theoretically it ought to be the best training in the world. In the practical working out—of the women doctors I know who have children of their own or adopted ones, they are among the most companionable, lovely mothers I knew.
I don’t feel competent to judge what kind of wife any girl would make, but of the girl doctors I know, there are many with whom some supposedly pretty far-seêing men would be willing to take the risk.
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