A Tribute to Jacques Barzun

The Professions Under Siege, (Harperís, October 1978) was Jacques Barzunís response to the initial wave of the medical malpractice tsunami which has continued to plague our nation for four decades.

I discovered this article in 1982 and have kept a copy constantly in reach since then. His work inspired and was the model for my own book, First, Do No Harm: The Cure for Medical Malpractice.

How can a man, who is not a physician, understand fully what the entire medical profession could not see regarding their own profession? The scope of Barzunís knowledge and the vastness of his experience allowed him, at the tender age of 71, to see more clearly the intangibles of life many take for granted.

Physicians speak easily of the characteristics of a true profession without recognizing how to incorporate those intrinsic values into everyday practice. Many would say that Barzunís characteristics of a true profession are utopian standards unattainable on a common basis by ordinary individuals. Few realize the benefit to society and to any profession itself when philosophical truisms can become daily practice.

Three years ago I called and asked Professor Barzun if I might send him a few segments of my book for his review prior to publication. He replied, ďI and my co-author are busy revising the 6th edition of my book. I donít have time to review your material.Ē

I was smiling broadly as I hung up the phone. I didnít get this revered man to review my book, but in that short conversation I had obtained a new definition of retirement Ė the time when one can no longer hold a pencil.

Dr. Ira Williams

Dr. Williams’ blog: Ask Dr. Ira Williams

The Jacques Barzun Centennial