Freshly returned to Queen’s I find myself in Richardson Amphitheater for the 14th annual A.A. (Tony) Travill Debate,
Be it resolved that…compensation for Canadian physicians is too high.
Several thoughts cross my mind. First, only in Canada would a room full of doctors (from nascent and newly-minted to nonagenarians) be cheering and hooting in favor of the proposition that their pay be reduced (or perhaps the enthusiasm was for a correction of their colleagues’ pay).
The debate was epic, the Con, Dr. Michael Adams and Mark Broussenko (Meds ‘16) in coordinated black suits, Remembrance Poppies ablaze of red on their lapels. How could salaries be cut just when medical students had assumed such debt? …and what of physician flight…unconscionable to deny fair reimbursement to physicians.
The Pro, past Dean, Dr. David Walker and Eve Purdy (Meds ‘15) emanated poise and called to social consciences…surely in these difficult times salaries most be moderated. Neither our patients nor the government can afford our bill; surely some slack must be cut.
When the speech-time continuum was violated, a gavel banged in crescendo until even a seasoned warrior was silenced. Water was sipped with dramatic emphasis, a student had the temerity to actually use something learned in medical school, relating to rebound hyperglycemia, to her benefit. But in the end, despite questioning the auditory acuity of a former Dean and cudgeling him with his own words… the audience was moved from equipoise to support the proposition. Most importantly, laughter echoed, hands were shaken and a day later the community was still a buzz
The crowd was assembled because for many years Queen’s was the home of a man who loved to debate, to challenge and to entertain…and oh yes, to teach a little anatomy and embryology. As Dr. Duffin noted in her summary, Dr. Travill loved argument and would seemingly be compelled to take the opposing side of a question (even one he favored)…on principle. She and Dr. Travill shared a love of Medical history and his Medicine at Queen’s 1854-1920, a peculiarly Happy Relationship is now, on Jackie’s recommendation, on my to-read list.
But now a little personal history. I first met Dr. Travill in 1977 shortly after first year medical school began. My group was starting our Anatomy course. We were young, enthusiastic, brash and noisy as we entered the Anatomy building. Tony greeted us with his gloved hand, his tail-gunner RAF stare and in his sardonic, British-accented voice said, “ You are pups, go away and learn about life; then come back and I will teach you about Medicine”. He had us at “Go away”.
In Dr. Travill’s class we did learn anatomy, the course of the lingual nerve and its famous double-crossing curve. We experienced the smells and sounds of dissection, and, in the first twinge of Real Medicine, we shared the strange juxtaposition of gallows humor and awe at the side of a once-living corpse. Tony was there at the beginning of our becoming Physicians. He opened the door to a life I knew little about, a calling that would prove, exhilarating, exhausting, and self-defining.
I did take Dr. Travill’s advice (still can’t call him Tony) and I went away. Perhaps 31 years was longer than he intended (perhaps not). I have learned a little about life in the intervening 3 decades and now I return to Queen’s, ready for the long overdue promise that I will be taught something about Medicine. I hope you will join me in the lessons.