Dr. Anc Clarkson & The Bonds We Share

It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic pace of our work and forget about the reason the Medical Society was founded – and how it continues to inspire and build lifelong bonds. Back in November, Roper Emergency Room physician Dr. An Clarkson made an eloquent and powerful speech about the Medical Society’s origins that spoke both to how far medical care has evolved in the 225 of our existence – and the relationships we build with one another, our patients, and our communities.

Enjoy Dr. Clarkson’s speech below:

I’m Anc Clarkson…. Appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. I’m an ER doc with the Roper emergency department and I’m running for chair of the New Physicians Committee.

About 4 blocks that way is Tradd Street. On that street is Peter Fayssoux’s house. We met there years ago, before we started meeting at McCrady’s.

We were a smaller group then. 10 of us.… The best doctors in town. The city was different then. Life was different. The Streets were all dirty and marshy and muddy including the one that you walked down to get to this building tonight.

Flies and privies were everywhere. Epidemics would race through the city yearly. Today we worry bout Ebola, a disease that is entirely absent from our state and fully described…Back then, we had to deal with very real and very present and utterly not understood yellow fever, smallpox, flu, cholera, scarlet fever. And yet there was always that central tenet of healing: a physician and his patient.

Cancer was a thing of mystery and death. MI’s were treated with opium and “a quiet room.” Even our best physicians knew that most of what ailed our patients were things that we couldn’t tackle… and yet they had the presence of mind to look to one another, in the form of a Medical Society, to make all of themselves better doctors.

They knew that their sum was greater than their parts.

So those 10 men… I should say WE ten men gathered together, Christmas Eve, 1789, at 126 Tradd Street.. under a common purpose of … I’ll paraphrase : “improving the Science of Medicine and promoting harmony amongst our practitioners.”

It’s fun to entertain what those 10 men would think if they were able to sit here in this room today, 225 years later. The medical acumen and skill of just one of you–any of us–outweighs what all 10 of those physician founders had combined.

The scarlet fever they saw kill children was not just treated but cured just last month by one of my partners.

The MI that we “just let rest in a quiet room” in 1800 now goes to a treatment laboratory on the 2nd floor of Roper hospital. Last year I watched one of our independent cardiologists save a man’s life from a severe MI in our cath lab.

He showed me a little red cup with the offending coronary artery thrombus he had pulled out of the patient’s coronary artery with a catheter…… in under 10 minutes. Patient walked out of the hospital. At the end of the case, by the way, the cardiologist said, “You know you called me at 6:30. I was off call at 7.”

The fundamental factor, though, from 1789 hasn’t changed a bit in these 225 years. The illnesses then and now, both share the one common thread of that basic unit of healing which should never change: a physician and his patient.

I suppose the case that best sums up what we are came a little more recently—a young man came to the ER febrile with a heart rate of 160. Hypoxic. White count was 270,000. All acute. Blood thick as syrup. He was dying.

Admitted by a
Medical Society physician, to a
Medical Society hospital,
built by the Medical Society.

He was cared for in the SICU, on 7 Petit, named after our 90th President of the Medical Society who gave of his own livelihood to improve our hospital’s facilities.

And, at the patient’s bedside at various points—

A Medical Society independent oncologist,
A Medical Society contracted ER doc and contracted pathologist,
Two Medical Society employed surgeons,
A Medical Society independent ophthalmologist, and
A Medical Society independent pulmonologist/intensivist.

All members of this society, all working together in a Medical Society hospital.

That patient was dying… they saved his life.

He was an inpatient for more than a month… Ended up walking out of the hospital back to his kids.

Each interaction a physician and his patient. And in the end, our sum greater than our parts.

Whether at the bedside of a dying child in 1800, a high tech cath lab in 2014, or beating back a once incurable cancer, there has always been that unit: a physician and his patient. And, similarly, there’s always been our society and this city.

When the man with the MI woke up at 6am pale diaphoretic with 10/10 chest pain, he didn’t yell to his wife: Help! I need health and human services! Call DHEC! Get Kathleen Sebelius! Get CMS! Get me the Leapfrog group!. I need lean six sigma or the institute of medicine. No that’s not what he said.

He said. Get me to a doctor. Get me to a hospital. 

What he yelled for… what we gave him, what saved him, is precisely what he needed, and it’s the same thing patients have always needed: that unit – a doctor and his patient.

And when that young man’s family—the man with the white count of 270—when that family was so worried they were praying for us to save him—they took the elevator up to the 7th floor… to 7 Petit… to visit with him. Funny thing, there’s a plaque on the inside of that elevator,—and that plaque doesn’t say DHEC. It doesn’t say CMS or JCHAO or NCQA or CIHQ or IHI.

What it says is Medical Society of South Carolina. The same organization that has been faithfully doing the healing of this city for 225 years.

We are growing our future with our new physicians. We’re now three hospitals.

Our young physicians need to know that we are the majority stakeholder in RSFH. They need to know that we built Roper Hospital. That in fact we’ve built three Roper hospitals, and staffed them all. That we were here taking care of patients during the British siege, the Union bombardment, the great earthquake, Hugo.

That we were here for every epidemic of yellow fever and diphtheria and malaria, that we were here taking care of the sick when the great depression nearly shuttered the city, that we were here during the tumult of the 60’s… and all the HMOs and PPOs and MCOs and mergers and acquisitions.

And that through it all, we have always represented and stood up for that purest and strongest tenet of medicine: the physician and his patient. THAT ownership of our professional lives is central to who we are. I want our new physicians to embrace those things unapologetically.

And they need to know that we care about one another. They need to know that when one of our members dies, a remembrance is written and read and entered into the minutes. That there is a gentility, an honor amongst us, that is precious and unique and not seen very much in our world anymore. And I believe in preserving that and passing it along to our next generation.

And so Fayssoux and Barron and Harris and Ramsay of 1789 become Prioleou…Johnson… Finley…Porcher … then Simons…Mitchell…Johnson..Smith…Waring and Baker… Cathcart… Parker and Parker and Parker, and probably more Parker…. and Bowers…Buist and Rivers become Petit and Buxton… all of these men, giving their part to the society…and in that, making all of us better. Because they knew what those original 10 knew on Tradd Street… that our sum is greater than our parts. Our new physicians need to see that and they need to embrace that for our future.

In the end, what I’d like to convey to us, and especially to our new physicians, is exactly what Tucker Harris, our third president, on stepping down at the close of his term, spoke about at a meeting just like the one we’re in right now.

This is what he said:

“May we at all times consider ourselves as a band of friends, attached to each other by those principles which laid the foundation of our institution, that instead of weakening the cord of our friendship we may add to its tone…by employing the same endevours in our professional life to support and defend the welfare of this society…, and by continuing to perpetuate the original intentions for which we became united.”

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