William Osler and Medical Journalism

Charles G. Roland, MD
JAMA. 1967;200(5):386-390. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120180074011.
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In 1899, in a memorial to his friend and colleague, William Pepper, Osler wrote:

It seems to me that for so young a man, Pepper had a great deal of good sense to have avoided the pitfalls of medical journalism. He must have seen at an early date that to be successful in it meant practically the sacrifice of everything else.1

Osler would seem, then, not favorably disposed toward medical journalism. Nevertheless, whatever the pitfalls of medical journalism, Osler was extremely successful in this endeavor; nor did he have to make any detectable sacrifice of other ambitions or projects.

Medical journalism is not always an easily defined activity. We might consider that it has three phases, each shading into the other. First, there is the medical editing done by most—but, lamentably, not all—authors. Editing and revising your own writing must be one of the most arduous of intellectual tasks.


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