On Humility

by Academy of Clinical Excellence on June 3, 2011

Humility. The art of detachment, the virtue of method, and the quality of thoroughness may make you students, in the true sense of the word, successful practitioners, or even great investigators, but your characters may still lack that which can alone give permanence to powers—the grace of humility.

As the divine Italian, at the very entrance to Purgatory, was led by his gentle master to the banks of the island and girt with a rush, indicating thereby that he had cast off all pride and self-conceit, and was prepared for his perilous ascent to the realms above, so should you, now at the outset of your journey, take the reed of humility in your hands, in token that you appreciate the length of the way, the difficulties to be overcome, and the fallibility of the faculties upon which you depend.

In these days of aggressive self-assertion, when the stress of competition is so keen and the desire to make the most of oneself so universal, it may seem a little old-fashioned to preach the necessity of this virtue, but I insist for its own sake, and for the sake of what it brings, that a due humility should take the place of honour on the list.

- Sir William Osler


A perspective piece, titled "On Humility", appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine in August. It provides some food for thought on what it means to be clinically excellent. It can be found here.

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