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Revisiting Osler’s Bedside Library - new CFMS project



Monday, January 13, 2014

The Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) will be leading a national revisiting of Osler’s Bedside Library. Conceptually, one lecture will be hosted by each Canadian medical school in which invited Canadians representing different geographies and perspectives and will answer the question, “What are the books that Canadian medical students should read and why?” By digitally recording these lectures, the CFMS is also hoping to create an accessible national lecture series commemorating this piece of Canadian medical history and affirming the importance of medical humanities in developing professional identity.

Being called the ‘father of modern medicine’ is apt for Dr. William Osler (1849-1919), a Canadian physician whose marks on medicine remain impressionable. Renowned as a skilled clinician, he also contributed to medical education by establishing clinical clerkship and medical residency, wrote reflections on the profession that resonate true today, and was one founder of John Hopkins University of Medicine.

Despite all of the recognition and accolades, arguably one of his most significant contributions is much less known than deserved: the echoes of originality and breadth found in his ‘bedside library’ from 1904 reveal a physician with tremendous interest in encompassing all dimensions of the medical profession and his concern for nurturing the humanity of medical students he was guiding through their early careers. Osler’s list contained ten ‘close friends’ that he appealed to be read through medical studies and beyond in order to increase understanding of the human condition while simultaneously growing in understanding of illness. (See inset for Osler’s original list of readings.)

Notably, Osler’s list lacks Canadian content, reflecting the nascence of our nation when he first proposed it. The curious mind cannot help but wonder what a contemporary list might include given the growth of our nation, its culture, and its medical profession. This question is especially compelling with Alice Munro’s recognition as the 2013 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature: the narrative voices that have told the stories of Canadians celebrate fundamental human values and experience and offer much for the appreciation of people and their encounters with health systems and providers.

Currently, the CFMS is looking to find interested undergraduate medical students at every Canadian medical school to realize this project and help finalize a list of invited guests to participate in this project. Interested applicants should send an email to the National Project Lead, Mr. Jesse Kancir (President of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students –, including their CV and a brief paragraph outlining their interest in the project.
All applications are due by January 17th.

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