Winter 2018

As Good as His Words

Former Sackler School dean and pharmacology pioneer Louis Lasagna also penned a modern Hippocratic oath.

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Photo: Tufts Digital Collections and Archives

Longtime Sackler School dean Louis Lasagna—he led the school from 1984 to 2002—started his career in pharmacology, conceptualizing controlled clinical trials and proving that the placebo effect was real and demonstrable. And in 1964, while an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Medical School, Lasagna suggested a modern take on the Hippocratic oath in The New York Times. His rewrite was quickly adopted by medical schools across the country—33 percent of 135 schools polled in 2009 reported administering Lasagna’s words.

Here, alumni and current students reflect on some favorite lines of the oft-recited oath.

“I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”

As a radiation oncologist, I see fear in people’s eyes every day. I see people fight for their lives. I see high motivation to cure cancer, and I see people who are weary from seemingly endless treatments that prolong an existence they don’t wish to continue. It is tempting to press an individual to do what you think is best for their cancer. However, I am reminded every day that it is not my decision—it is the patient’s decision … there is truly an art to understanding the mindset, goals, and ultimate desires of a patient.—Sandra Sha, M97

“I will not be ashamed to say, ‘I know not,’ nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.”

As a first-year medical student, I could not imagine a more accurate or appropriate statement.—Christian Sleeper, M21

“I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, or a cancerous growth, but a sick human being.”

It seems as tools and technologies grow more advanced, this becomes easier to neglect … At Tufts, however, recognizing and cherishing who we treat—not what we treat—is so strongly emphasized. That is something I deeply appreciate as a student at this medical school. —Jonathan Williams, A16, M20

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