In 1776, traveling by horse, buggy and foot, the physicians of New Jersey came to a roadside inn by the Raritan River called Duff’s Tavern. There they formed the first medical society in what would soon be the United States. They set as their goals to organize the training of their profession, to try to guarantee patient safety and to improve the quality of care for their patients. Theirs was the seed in building our present national medical system and lead to modern medical education and care.
This weekend, for the 235th time, the members of the Medical Society of New Jersey, returned to that very same spot, which is now occupied by the Hyatt…. Duffs Tavern having long passed into memory. They came by car and train and a few by foot (horses were not in evidence). They came to improve the quality of care of their patients. The talk was again of education, safety and professionalism. Given the times it was also about legislation, health care systems and the challenges of a tight economy. Physicians from Ramsey in the north to Cape May in the south, from Trenton to Atlantic City worked together for three days to craft improved access to high quality and less expensive health care. Difficult questions for difficult times. But, no more difficult then the questions in 1776, when doctors did not yet understand bacteriology, basic physiology and had limited tools to relieve suffering.
For me, the greatest hope of these meetings came from a surprising source. A dozen members of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), attended. These were third and fourth year students from the state’s three medical schools, New Jersey Medical School, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and the School of Osteopathic Medicine. Finding time in the middle of their very full study and work schedule they attended hours of discussion and debate. More importantly, they contributed their ideas, excitement, and, indeed, wisdom. They have a positive view of the future of medical care in this country. They know that our problems can be solved. They know that this country can and should give the best medical care in the entire world. They deeply believe in the obligation of physicians to their patients to teach, heal and lead.
So, after spending three days in meetings from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., I am inspired. My inspiration, my rejuvenation, comes from an unexpected place…. the students that I teach. While we have challenging times ahead, and tough problems to solve, I feel confident tonight that the young doctors that are entering medicine will take remarkable care of our patients and of our profession. They are strong men and women who have a healthier society and patients as their goal. The next 235 years are off to a very good start.