Over the past 40 years, the top of the list of the most prestigious jobs in the United States has never changed. You guessed it. Mall Santa. Wait a minute…I'm sorry. That's the most prestigious job I've ever had. The correct answer is physician. In fact, that's probably been the case throughout history.
The first physicians were chronicled in cave paintings that are almost 30,000 years old in the area now known as France. They were known back then as "healers," and they were pretty popular because they figured out all the neat things that plants could do for medicinal purposes (and I'm guessing a few recreational purposes to boot). This medical knowledge of plants gradually expanded and was passed down through tribes for the next 20,000 years.
The earliest known surgery was also carried out in France around 5,000 BC. The French are very proud to point this out. What they don't point out is that it was actually an amputation, and the results weren't all that great. That was the bad news. However, the good news was that the physician who performed it learned quickly that patients can't live without a head. Over the next 3,000 years, the Egyptians gradually perfected surgical techniques and developed the first public health care. Later, the Greeks became known as the best in the medical field, led by the most famous physician of all time, Hippocrates. He is famous for coming up with the Hippocratic oath, the code of conduct, which is still taken by all physicians to this day. There was just one small addition added a few years back. No more house calls.
Medical schools didn't develop until the 19th century in Italy. Back then, it took a total of eight years to become a physician. These schools gradually spread all over Europe over the next 500 years. It is no coincidence that golf was invented shortly after the first medical school. The University of St. Andrews School of Medicine was started in Scotland. I guarantee you that the very first foursome to ever tee off was all doctors. And I bet it was a Thursday – their only day off. That tradition has remained unchanged for almost 600 years.
Now the dawn of modern medicine in the United States started around 1920, thanks mainly to the advancements in chemistry. And physicians began to understand the importance of genetics, immunology, psychiatry and most importantly, putting. But these days, physicians have a whole arsenal of technical gadgets at their disposal. These include surgical lasers, magnetic 3-D imaging and robots. Yep. Not only are operations being performed by robots, they've developed some models that can give patients routine physicals. Maybe. But, I've seen some of those steel robotic hands, and I can tell you right now that for me, a prostate exam is out of the question.
Of course, as medicine has become more sophisticated, medical training is now taking a lot longer. Some physicians train up to 13 years to practice their specialty. But as long as that seems, most doctors I know look back fondly on that experience. All of them had some great stories. The best one I've heard floating around is about a frantic husband running into the emergency room screaming that his wife was fixing to have her baby in the cab. An intern rushes out, jumps in the cab, lifts up the woman's dress and begins to wrestle with her. The husband finally runs back outside screaming, "Hey, that's the wrong cab."
What I really like about today's physicians is that they have a much more positive bedside manner than in years past. Every time I go for my checkup, my doctor always says my health is normal for my age, even though, according to my cholesterol level, I'm basically a pizza. But I'm really glad to honor the Top Docs this month. And I hope every one of them winds up with a great tee time this Thursday.