Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Winter 2019 - 12

Compass Points
continued from page 11

and properly applied, isolation will scarcely be necessary. Besides
the use of ice, the most efficient remedies for diphtheria are tinct,
ferri chlordi, quiniae sulphus, and chlorate potassa; these have
always been highly recommended and next to the treatment by ice
have always given me most satisfaction. As the treatment by ice in
diphtheria is met with considerable opposition, and as I have used
it with such wonderful results, I can not refrain from making an
earnest appeal to the profession to give it a fair and impartial trial
and I have no doubt the results will be convincing.
Scarlatina (Scarlet Fever) made its appearance about a year
ago and continued during the summer until fall. It was at no time
virulent in its epidemic character, though all degrees of severity
were manifested in individual cases. In the simple form very little
treatment is needed; but in scarlatina anginosa, in which the throat
takes a form similar to diphtheria, ice has been applied with same
delightful results.
James Y. Shearer, M.D.
(For the sake of brevity, the portions of the report have been redacted.
A full copy is available at the BCMS office.)
To be honest, my first reaction was, "Sweet Lord, Dr. Shearer
must have loved ice." I mean did this guy have a majority stake in
Reading's ice delivery carts or something? My second reaction was
respect for the lengths to which he and his fellow physicians went
to try to treat diphtheria sufferers during this epidemic. It would
be another 50 years before the Diphtheria vaccine would be widely
used, so a great deal of imagination, intelligence, and compassion
went into his approach to treatment. His meticulous report suggests
optimism in finding a cure and a sincere need to share feedback with
his peers.
I'd like to think Dr. Shearer knew deep down that ice could not
combat his patients' infirmity, but that it would provide relief and
add a little hope for patients' recovery. In the face of a crippling
epidemic, there was no cynical tone in Dr. Shearer's remarks, only
facts and suggestions.
Cynicism is an easy trait to default to in today's medical practice
climate. Physicians are being pulled 12 different ways, limiting their
time with patients, peers, and even family. Our current generation
of physicians is battling student loan debt, burnout, insurance
companies, and at-times overreaching policies and legislation. None
of which is akin to the natural pressures found in the actual practice
of medicine.

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But in times like this, when great changes are altering the face of
medicine, it's important to turn back the page and see the wisdom of
our previous physician leaders. During his tenure, Dr. Shearer could
have easily stood up and told his fellow physicians, "Diphtheria is
rampant, nothing I am doing is working, the weakest won't survive,
so I give up." Instead he stood up and proposed ice, a compassionate
alternative that might ease the suffering of other patients.
It is truly fortunate that our Medical Society has endured since
1824, and that our members' history allows us to read about the
likes of Dr. Shearer. It reminds us of some absolute truths, namely
each generation is faced with impossible tasks and the only way to
tackle them is through dialogue, ingenuity, teamwork, and hope. But
none of this can occur if a person of integrity does not stand up and
offer an alternative to the status quo.
It's important to note that these excerpts were not taken out of
Dr. Shearer's private diary. They were recorded during a session with
colleagues from across our Commonwealth, all eager to discuss the
lives of their patients and struggles in their practices. They found
value in their discussions and kinship in their cause. We live in an
exciting and turbulent time in medicine, truly an era of great change,
but like Dr. Shearer we do not have the answers to all the questions
at hand. But that should not stop physicians from standing up and
suggesting alternatives.
The Berks County Medical Society has been serving physicians
since 1824. It has seen innovation and failure, epidemics and cures,
and the ebb and flow of good and bad medicine. As a society we
have evolved, adapting through time to welcome new practices,
new physicians, and new patient care. And this will continue. But
in order to thrive we also need new Dr. Shearers - brilliant and
dedicated physicians who are passionate enough to stand up and
say "we are capable of achieving so much more in medicine... and I
might have an idea..."
If you think you are that physician, or simply want to support
a society with the mission of advocating for the art of medicine,
I would respectfully encourage you to reach out to our office or a
member of our society to learn how you can contribute your talents.
Medicine is at a turning point, and there are some truly exciting
opportunities for our community in the months and years to come.
It is a time when one can truly leave their mark and be an agent of
change. It's amazing how much can be accomplished once someone
clears their throat, even if it is to simply suggest ice.


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Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Winter 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Winter 2019

Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Winter 2019 - 1
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