Letter to the Editor The Linacre Quarterly 2018, Vol. 85(2) 99 Men and Women in Medicine ª Catholic Medical Association 2018 Reprints and permission: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0024363918770459 journals.sagepub.com/home/lqr Sister Elinor Gardner, O.P. (2017) opens her article, the beautiful vocation of consecrated life, but to “The Woman Physician as Antidote to the Ills of affirm the essential maternal nature of women and Modern Medicine,” with the question, “Is medicine the paternal nature of men. Sister Elinor points out afeminineprofession,oristhereafeminineway that medicine, to be true to its vocation, must obey of practicing medicine, distinct from a correspond- nature, not dominate it. This approach, urged upon ing masculine way?” us by the late Dr. Herbert Ratner, longtime leader She then quickly and effectively dismisses the of the Catholic Medical Association, is applicable contemporary notion that it is “sexist to isolate mas- to all physicians, male and female. (It also helps to culine and feminine aspects of a profession.” She be obedient to the Church, whose teachings can goes on to demonstrate that there is much of distinc- guard us in many ways from harming our patients.) tive value that women, by virtue of their maternal I have recently retired from forty-three years of nature, can bring to the profession of medicine and family medical practice. Hundreds of families have to many other professions. humbled and honored me by choosing me to care for She points out that modern medicine, like the them and to attend more than two thousand births. In modern age in general, “has allowed man’s drive for trying to be a servant of nature rather than its master, knowledge and dominion to develop without check, and by loving and praying for my patients (the rosary so that mankind might become ‘the lords and masters can be a great antidote to the temptation to intervene of nature,’ as Descartes put it, and most especially unnecessarily in a slow labor), I have been able to the lords and masters of the human body itself. The form deep personal bonds with many patients over original vocation of medicine, however, is not so the years. I have lacked many maternal qualities, but much to become the lord of nature as nature’s minis- perhaps not all the paternal ones. ter. The physician is more handmaid than master” To answer Sister Elinor’s double-barreled open- (Gardner 2018, 400). Well put, indeed! ing question, (1) it can be, and (2) yes; and each has My only cavil with Sister Elinor is that she seems its strengths and weaknesses. to contrast femininity not with masculinity but with modernism. Men also can bring the gifts of compas- William G. White, MD sion and personal attention to the bedside, and I have Past President, Catholic Medical Association (for- seen many do it. Some women physicians, on the merly the National Association of Catholic Physi- other hand, are not immune to the mechanistic cians’ Guilds) approach to patient care. My father and teacher in medicine, Dr. Gregory Reference White, used to say that all women are called to be Gardner, Elinor. 2017. “The Woman Physician as Antidote mothers and all men are called to be fathers. This to the Ills of Modern Medicine.” Linacre Quarterly 84, is not to reject the vocation of celibacy, least of all no. 4 (November): 393–402.
The Linacre Quarterly – SAGE
Published: May 1, 2018
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