– April 9, 1895. –
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Hering College has for three years been your intellectual mother. Daily has she nourished you with the knowledge of your profession, and now, deeming you fully competent to go out into the great world to begin professional life upon your own responsibility, she bids you a final farewell and wishes you a hearty, God speed. There was never yet a mother who did not think her own baby was the finest, the fattest and the loveliest in the land, and Hering College is no exception to this rule. She points to your record in the lecture room, in the quiz class and in the examination paper, and does not hesitate to advance your claim as the prize baby of the year.
But this pride is not merely fond and maternal. It is based on right, reason and sound judgment. I desire to show you this by pointing out a certain peculiarity which distinguishes you as a class, from all other classes whatsoever, this peculiarity being but a reflection of that which characterizes your Alma Mater and makes her different from all other colleges whatsoever.
It is that, unlike most graduates, you are enthusiasts in the medical art. Your teachers have succeeded in making you devout believers in a great natural law of cure. Homeopathy has become to you a living truth, a great principle, something to live for, something to fight for, and you are filled with a noble zeal for its advancement.
You have therefore the immense and incalculable advantage of faith in a principle. The importance of such a faith cannot be overestimated, for without it you will be unable to practice your profession with any earnestness or success. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the distinctive character which makes this college proud to call you her children. It will be the key note of your future success.
In great and sad contrast to this is the mental state in which the students of most colleges leave their Alma Mater. Having no law to follow, they can have no principle to adhere to, and much of the enthusiasm which you possess must, in their case, be necessarily lacking, and knowledge without enthusiasm is of little avail. Recent graduates have usually a very thorough knowledge of bacteriology; they have been well taught in chemistry and miscroscopy, they have been thoroughly instructed in the principles and practice of surgery, and there is no collateral branch of medicine in which they are not at least fairly competent; but in therapeutics, the very essence of the healing art, they are deplorably deficient.
They are expert bacteriologists, skillful surgeons, competent chemists, sound sanitarians, and therapeutic infidels.
The graduates of Hering College while not lacking in any of these subsidiary qualifications are especially and thoroughly versed in the therapeutic art. But having once attained the citadel of truth you will not be permitted to occupy it without a struggle. Ere long you will be assaulted by a great variety of medical fads and theories. A thousand and one new remedies will flout their so-called cures in your face. The one-sided specialist who traces all diseases to his specialty, whatever it may be, will present you with his thesis. The surgeon who professes to cure all diseases by an operation will most plausibly expound his views. The doctor who has an uncomfortable suspicion rankling in his bosom that the vermiform appendix is – a mistake, who thinks that every patient who has the money to pay for an operation should have it removed, will publish glowing accounts of his successful results.
The microscopist, who looks over the world and ways of men, and lo there is nothing there for him but wriggling microbes, will advance his theories of germicides as the cure-alls of disease.
Amid such a storm of warring hypotheses, each clamoring for recognition, the doctor who has no central truth to guide him will be like a rudderless boat tossed on angry and tumultuous waters. But to you, Homoeopathy will be as a guiding star to steer by, or as firm ground to stand upon, or as a test by which to measure the truth or falsity of these multitudinous and opposing opinions.
Nor will it change. Theory may succeed theory; new ideas of pathology and new modes of treatment may arise with the regularity of successive seasons, to enjoy an ephemeral day of prosperity, to sink into a long night of oblivion.
You will change. In the long procession of the years your form will be bowed, your hair silvered, your condition and environment changed, you will be amid other faces, other cares, other interests, but the law of cure is one of the immutabilities. At the last as well as at the first milestone of your professional life, it will still be your guiding star, your medical creed, your rule of conduct; amid the changing world of science the one unchanging thing.
You are now regularly graduated as physicians. You have complied with all the requirements of this college and with the laws of the land. Go forth on your mission. You have our heartiest wishes for a full measure of success.
(Editors’s Note: This is an excerpt from a longer address)