A Chapter by Annie Knox

Tom is a young man who wants to be a doctor and ends up studying the history of his passion with an old experienced Doctor, McTier.


“So what is this…oath?”

The boy’s blue eyes glinted across the table, a mixture of serious and confused. McTier sighed. These new doctors knew nothing lately. They hadn’t the simplest idea of where their practise came from, of where their knowledge had been found. It was just respect, common decency, he thought, to bother to learn who gave you the chances you got at life.

“Son, do you know who Hippocrates is?”

The dark eyebrows above the blue eyes furrowed.

“I’ve heard of him…a friend who did history has mentioned the name. Why?”

“…Hippocrates is everything. Every poster you see on these walls, every word spoken to you in your lessons, every piece of equipment we have, would either not be here or would be very different if it were not for Hippocrates. Despite having been born a good 430 years before Christ, he is the father of our modern medicine.”

McTier was unaware but the young student watched, still uncertain of whom Hippocrates was, as the Doctor’s voice went vague and monotonous, as if he forgot where he was. He seemed to be lost in the discussion. His eyes were wide and he was looking towards the sky as if in worship.

“That is why you, and all other young doctors, must swear the oath before you can begin your work. He was one of the few Greek doctors who used reasoning and observation to look at issues with health and disease. Along with other people he wrote 60 books to aid future doctors with the job. The books were not all by him, as they were written over a span of 150 years, but we know that he must have had a large part in them as they became known as the ‘Hippocrates’ Collection.”

The student’s eyes suddenly widened and he exclaimed “I think I’ve read one of those! I wondered why the book was part of the collection!”

McTier nodded, brought back to earth by this interruption. Maybe this kid had hope after all, if he had read Hippocrates. Showed some kind of sub-conscious taste.

“And what did this book tell you son?”

“It was a few years back…when I was about thirteen…it was about how to observe sickness and make daily notes on whichever problem you were observing so you could have a detailed record of said illness.”

McTier nodded with a smile. Impressive.

“Indeed. ‘On Epidemics’, I believe that one was called. All his books and he himself disproved the idea that illness can be caused by religion. The Greeks were some of the few who first argued the belief that religion was a part of all disease.”

The boy nodded thoughtfully, but McTier could still see question in his eyes.

“Okay…but…” He hesitated, obvious nervous.

“You want to know why you should take an oath on his name.”

Tom’s forehead smoothed in relief, and a smile flitted across his face as he nodded gratefully.

“Hippocrates is known as the personification of what it is to be a physician. He was a wise and caring man, and his oath sets high ethical standards for all doctors. It’s basically an oath to be honest to the job and to care about all those you treat, as any good doctor should.”

Tom nodded, looking understanding.

“Can I read more about him? I haven’t studied any sort of history apart from the Tudors before...and the dinosaurs.”

McTier gave an amiable nod, before considering.

“Why do you want to learn? For most students today just having the biology and chemistry is enough to go digging around in other people’s organs.”

Tom shrugged non-chalently.

“It just makes sense doesn’t it? Knowing where what you’re doing has come from…it would give a greater idea of what the job is. Being a doctor is my life Sir. My parents have prepared me since birth for this; I have no other path to travel down. I don’t have a back-up, this is it. It’s doctoring or living at my mum’s house for the rest of my life. And so I owe it to the job to know everything I can about it, whether that’s past or present.”

McTier finally let his nice side show, and allowed a grin to spread over his cheeks. Without a word he rolled back in his wheelie chair and clicked at the computer. Tom sat, polite but awkward, not really knowing if he was being dismissed or not. After a few seconds the printer jerked into life with a painful wheeze.

McTier looked at it gravely before announcing that he thought he should give it an antibiotic. Tom chose to ignore that.

The Doctor grabbed the sheet of paper that had been printed and handed it over with a flourish, before sitting back, interlocking his hands and letting them rest against his stomach.

Tom studied the page. Two columns of writing. Two columns of titles, each with a date and name in brackets next to them. The font was small and he had to squint properly to see them.


McTier sighed again.

“This is the list I wrote for the last student who came to me with the same sort of enquiry as you. Read each and every book on there and come to tell me when you have. The other kid was a disappointment. He had great potential but no dedication. Wasted his life doing something he wasn’t meant for, if you ask me. No motivation. I’m hoping you’ll turn out differently. Are you a fast reader, Tom?”

The use of his actual name startled Tom a little. “…um…average?”

The Doctor rolled his eyes at the questioning tone.

“I expect to see you by the end of the week at least one book more knowledgeable.”


© 2013 Annie Knox

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Added on January 9, 2013
Last Updated on January 9, 2013
Tags: history, revision, information, medicine, doctors, studying


Annie Knox
Annie Knox

United Kingdom

Hi :D I'm Annie, a girl from London. I recently turned 16. Writing is basically everything to me, it's what I want to do with my life and I've known it a very long time. Anyone who wants to talk to me.. more..

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