Calling of founding physicians remains true 120 years later
by Maurice Duggins, MD —
It is my honor to serve this year as president of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County. It is a privilege to represent so many outstanding physicians in our community – and to continue the rich legacy of MSSC.
This year marks the 120th anniversary since MSSC’s founding in 1903. Much has changed since the days of those pioneering docs, but much has stayed the same – including our commitment to our patients, profession and community.
At the end of his term of office, MSSC’s first president, eye surgeon J.F. Gsell, gave a speech to the medical society’s members. After thanking them for the honor of serving as their president, Gsell raised an all-too-familiar concern:
“We have been charged – and by members of our own ranks – that the medical profession of today is not that noble profession that it once was; that it is no longer a question of principle but a matter of dollars and cents.”
Though commercialization was a concern in 1903 (and remains so today, with private equity firms buying up medical practices), Gsell pushed back at the notion that doctors were only in it for the money. While acknowledging that a few physicians may have had “mercenary motives” in wanting to be a doctor, Gsell said those who “begin the study of medicine for fun or money don’t last long.”
“It takes too much hard work and sacrifice of time,” he said. “Money is easier made in other and wider channels.”
Gsell said he asked several MSSC physicians why they decided to study medicine. The answers were practically all the same: “Because we thought that the calling of a doctor was a noble and honorable one.”
Gsell went on to express pride in our profession and in the broader impact of physicians of his day.
“As a profession, we are credited for much,” he said. “We have done our work well and lived up to our opportunities in discovery, science, in culture, in sanitation and hygiene, in progress in philanthropy and the progress of civilization.”
I, too, am proud to be a physician and to be part of this noble profession. I decided to become a physician when I was growing up in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Like many of you, my 12-year-old self fell in love with science and math. Being inspired by the Great Physician, I wanted to serve this world we live in. I wanted, and still want, to give back to my community. I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve in the role of MSSC president 120 years from its founding. Let’s celebrate this momentous year.
We know that physicians – both 120 years ago and today – face many pressures and demands. Sometimes this can make us discouraged and call into question our career choice.
It is good to think back, as Gsell asked early MSSC members to do, and recall why we wanted to be physicians. For most of us, it was a calling to serve.
“As doctors, we have and are and ever will do our duty and fulfill our destiny,” Gsell said.
That was true 120 years ago and remains true today.