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Osler Centenary Papers: Would Sir William Osler be a role model for medical trainees and physicians today?


If Sir William Osler were alive and practising as one of our contemporary colleagues, would he be viewed as a role model by medical trainees and other physicians? Recently published literature has sought to define clinical excellence; this characterisation of physician performance establishes a context in which role models in medicine can be appraised. Building on this framework, we present rich anecdotes and quotes from Sir William Osler himself, his colleagues, and his students to consider whether Osler would have been regarded as a role model for clinical excellence today. This paper illustrates convincingly that William Osler indeed personified clinical excellence and would have been appreciated as a consummate role model if he were alive and on a medical school’s faculty today. However, a century has passed since his death, and he is not sufficiently visible today to serve as a role model to modern medical trainees and physicians. Moreover, we speculate that Osler himself would not have wanted to be a role model for today’s trainees, as he emphasised that medicine is best learned from teachers at the bedside—a place where he cannot be. Reanimating Osler through rich stories and inspiring quotes, and translating his example of clinical excellence into modern clinical practice, can remind us all to carry Oslerian virtues with us in our professional work.

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