“Our Duty Is To Save.” Chancellor Gibson Talks to the Medical Students. East Tennessee College Formally Opened. Exercises at the Y. M. C. A. Room last Night — the Regular Term Begins To-Day
Last night at the Y. M. C. A. rooms the Tennessee Medical College was duly inaugurated by a lecture from Chancellor Henry R. Gibson.
There was a fair sized crowd present, but what the audience lacked in numbers it made up in intelligence and appreciation.
Dr. J. R. Cawood, dean of the faculty introduced Dr. Holmes to the audience, who opened with prayer. The dean then gave the audience a history of the inception of the Tennessee Medical College, after which the orator of the evening was introduced as a gentleman whom all present knew well, but not in the capacity in which he appeared on the present occasion.
Judge Gibson is always a happy speaker, and his address was listened to with close attention and much favor. After a pleasant preface that put his audience in a good humor he came directly to the Tennessee Medical college, and spoke substantially as follows:
There has been no medical college nearer to Knoxville than Louisville on the north, and Atlanta on the south and Nashville on the west, and the University of Virginia on the east. Knoxville, by reason of her geographical location, is the natural commercial center of this vast unoccupied scope of country, and is the most eligible point for a medical college. The beauty of her surroundings, the salubrity of her climate and her central situation are all factors in her favor when considered in this connection. As long as coal and iron are the foundations upon which material empire is built, Knoxville will continue to be the pride of the central south. Our city is growing rapidly. In five years we will have 65,000 and in ten years 100,000 people. The Tennessee Medical college will grow as Knoxville grows, and in the years to come its influence will be felt throughout the land, and its name and fame will be household words.
The medical importance is of great importance. We laugh at doctors until we get sick and then our first thought is to send for one. I belong to the legal profession which is said by some to be the greatest. I do not think so and I never have thought so. The grandest, noblest and purest profession on earth is that of the ministry, and next to this comes the medical profession. The minister medicines the soul, the doctor the body, while the lawyer medicines the estate, leaves it in a half whole condition and charges a contingent fee at that. I read a good definition of a contingent fee the other day. A client went to a lawyer and asked him to take charge of a case involving the recovery of a piece of property. The lawyer told him he would have to charge him a contingent fee. The client wanted to know what that meant. “Why,” said the lawyer, “if I lose you don’t get anything.”
Medicine is closely associated with the growth of human knowledge. In the early ages the offices of priest and physician were combined. They were centered in one person. The founders of religions and philosophies were often doctors. Christ was a physician and in addition in his spiritual affairs, treated men’s bodies. Apollo was the god of music, medicine and beauty, the three essentials in the Grecian mythological trinity.
The physicians have been lovers of human nature in all the ages and among all men they have been the grandest of philosophers. They have been the ministers of mercy in the hospitals, on the battle fields, in contagion, in epidemics their courage has been sublime. It is not hard to be a hero on the battle field, when the roar of the cannon, the music of the military bands, the lines of gleaming bayonets, all appeal to the heroic in man, quicken his heart-beat and influence his pulse. But in the awful atmosphere of the epidemic or contagion, with loathsome death in the air everywhere, the physician labors for the sake of humanity, and his glorious calling, not knowing when his time will come, but animated with the noble nature and feelings of his high calling to a point beyond which human sublimity cannot go. Disease is our great enemy and the physician is our champion and deliverer.
The doctor is our sanitary guide. He establishes hospitals and boards of health, and inaugurates sanitary reforms. He advocates sewers, and the physicians of Knoxville are doing that for the city today. It may come and that shortly. [Applause.]
It is important that we should have a high standard of medical education. This is what the Tennessee Medical College is driving at. It will afford advantages to the young men to acquire a practical, scientific medical education along modern lines of medical jurisprudence. The day of quackery is over. Legislation has reached a point in our state where it has declared that quackery and charlatanism shall cease. The quack has performed one good service. He has killed off the most of the fools and given sensible people a better chance. Formerly it was expensive and difficult for doctors prospective to get a college education. But with the increase of our medical colleges, this objection is being overcome. East Tennessee, especially, is well provided for now in the establishment of the Tennessee Medical college.
Our physicians are a blessed army of benefactors. With the poet we can say:
“Along their front no bayonets shine,
No blood red pinions wave,
Their banner bears a single line —
Our duty is to save
The physician is an honored member of society. He is the confidential friend of the family and the trusted adviser of a wide circle of clients. His position is a responsible and delicate one. When he rises to the full measure of his possibilities he occupies in society a position that is almost God like in some of its attributes. Young men (turning to the students) this wide and honorable field is before you. You may enter and occupy it if you will. What has been done may be done again.
I believe in progress. As regards the human race, I think it has been gradually coming up from a low order through successive stages to its present position, and is still steadily climbing to grander and sublimer heighths [sic]. In my pinion the day will come when we will master the secrets of nature and stand face to face with the great mainsprings of human life. An antidote will be found for every poison and a remedy for every disease. An elixir will be found that, while it will not indefinitely prolong human life, will yet assist nature in preserving in the highest possible manner the human frame. Thus in all departments of knowledge we will reach what now seems an ideal state of perfection and thereby conserve the greater happiness and prosperity of the human race. [Applause.]
The music for the occasion was furnished by Crouch’s orchestra and was splendidly rendered.
Source: Knoxville Daily Journal and Tribune, October 1, 1889, page 1