It was one of those rare evenings when I had about three hours of peace, quiet and solitude. Lapius had gone to a meeting at about eight and I curled up in front of the fireplace trying to catch up with the endless stream of journals that flooded the morning mails. I awakened with icy water dripping down my neck. Everything was dark. Mainly because Lapius was standing astride my head, the melting snow draining off his great coat and the brim of his hat all over me, while he rubbed life back into his hands and stomped the chill from his feet. The wind howled outside – and I started howling too. “Cut it out, Simon. Move away. I’m drenched. Can’t you shake your coat out somewhere else?”
“Don’t be so inconsiderate, Harry. You can’t hog the fire, you know. I’m entitled to warm myself. After all, I’ve been fighting the elements. What have you been doing all evening? Dozing?”
“Simon,” I said crossly sitting up, “you took a taxi to the meeting and you took a taxi home from the meeting. What elements have you been fighting, and how come you’re covered with snow?”
“It’s blustery out, Harry, and as I stepped from the taxi, I was practically buried by an avalanche of snow from the awning. Some of it even got on my eyeglasses and under my collar. See.” He leaned over and turned his collar up to show me, and another patch of snow hit me in the face.
He ran to the bedroom, undressed and toweled down as if he had just climbed the Matterhorn. “Just a terrible meeting,” he murmured again and again.
I realized that we were going to have to talk about the meeting.
“Okay Simon, what happened at the meeting?”
“Well, Harry, you wouldn’t believe it but they are talking of reducing the medical curriculum by condensing the 36 months into three instead of four years, and in addition, of setting up a program where in a five year course, your high school graduates can combine one year of college with a smattering of medical education and get their degrees. What do you think of that, Harry?”
I was in no mood to coddle him. “It sounds okay to me.”
“Doesn’t be a fool,” he said sharply. “Medicine is difficult enough in four years. There’s an infinite amount of material to assimilate. And to do it properly there should be good foundations in the basic sciences, to say nothing of the arts. Why, in molecular biology and biochemistry alone there is enough for two complete years, to say nothing of anatomy, histology, embryology, neuroanatomy, the clinical sciences. At the rate they’re going, they will turn medical school into a trade school.”
“It’s a trade school now,” I said.
“Nonsense. It is a prelude to the magnificent profession of medicine. It shouldn’t be bastardized.”
“But the nation needs more doctors, Simon.”
“Then create more medical schools. Each school now has 30 or 40 times the number of applicants it can accommodate. A terrible waste of manpower, Harry, to deny all of these people the privilege of becoming physicians, and to deprive the nation of their services.”
“But the country needs the doctors now, Simon, right away.”
“Perhaps, but the country won’t get them by rushing children through medical school on a four lane highway. To become a doctor you have to take the side roads slowly, so that the material and atmosphere of the medical countryside can be assimilated. Anything to the contrary is naught but educational dysentery. I shan't like to see the medical profession diminished by such nonsense.”
“Simon,” I said, “Let’s change the subject. How old were you when you graduated medical school?”
“Twenty-two. Why do you ask?”