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Vital Signs:
Pages Past

In this section, we highlight tidbits from past issues of the magazine. These messages from yesteryear remind us of the pace of change as well as of some timeless truths.

From the Fall 1979 issue

Exactly 25 years ago, the magazine ran a feature—titled "Horse and Buggy Medicine"—drawn from a collection of letters in the DMS archives. They'd been written during the early 1880s by a recent graduate of the Medical School, Dr. John Henry, to his fiancee; Henry, who'd been valedictorian of the Class of 1880, had taken over a small-town practice in West Fairlee, Vt., and his wife-to-be was located in Winchendon, Mass.

"September 11, 1881: Last night I was called out to attend a broken leg about 10:00 in the evening, then routed out at 6:00 this morning to see another patient, and I have just come in from a case that has kept me since 4:00.

"September 18, 1881: My work is getting the best of me. I have several new cases of typhoid and one of typhoid-pneumonia on my hands. Also plenty of others. Last night I did not get to bed till nearly midnight and did not have one spare minute either. Today has been the same—I started at 6:30 and rode six or seven miles before breakfast and made three or four visits.

"September 25, 1881: I think that I shall get about $100 cash for September from all my work—about half of that from my monthly payroll and the rest from my side business. . . . I have got the handsomest set of tooth forceps that you ever saw. I had them all nickel plated last week. . . . There are seven pairs, and they are all beauties.

Dr. Henry, ca. 1880

"October 16, 1881: I caught cold last Thursday. Friday I had a hard day's work—much more than I wanted. Was called up at 6:00 and did not get to bed until just past midnight. Yesterday I rode all night in the rain, and that didn't improve my cold. "October 23, 1881: They have kept me too busy for the past week to give any time to letter-writing—or to anything else, in fact. I have been about half-killed with work. There has been a constant stream of sickness for the last seven days, so much that I have been obliged to neglect someone every day.

"November 6, 1881: I don't know how much longer I can manage to exist if this run of work continues at the present rate. I now have 10 cases of fever. . . . One day last week I saw and prescribed for almost 50 patients and I guess the average for the past three weeks has been 20 per day. . . . I never realized before what a dog's life a physician must lead."

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