Inspiration is one of those things we all intuitively understand, but defies clear definition. The best I’ve come across is “stimulation or arousal of the mind to special or unusual activity or creativity”. Sounds a little too clinical. Perhaps better capturing the spirit of inspiration are a couple of quotes from fairly famous folks who have more than a passing familiarity with the topic:
“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
– Saul Bellow
“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking”
– Albert Einstein
What seems clear is that Inspiration drives creative discovery and innovation in all fields of human endeavor, from the arts to fundamental science. It comes upon us unexpectedly, almost like a gift from above, but we need to be prepared to receive it, open to possibilities, open to novel ideas, willing to challenge convention.
I was “inspired” to consider “inspiration” recently when asked to provide some remarks at a showcase highlighting the role of the Museum of Health Care in our community.
As one looks over the various displays and artifacts in its impressive collection, it’s easy to feel a little smug and even amused by the quaintness and crudeness of some of the devices and approaches that are no longer in use. In reality, each new retractor, forceps, sterilization technique or monitoring device represents an occurrence of inspiration and creative innovation. Behind each display lurks a physician or scientist who had an idea and, by virtue of their unique contribution, advanced the standard of care for the patients of their day. They also contributed to a line of continuing innovation that reaches us today. They remind us that we have no monopoly on creativity, industry, or dedication to the care of our patients. Certainly no monopoly on inspiration.
The showcase provided an opportunity for our students and faculty to not only view and experience the richness of our heritage but also reflect on our place in it. Dr. Susan Lamb, our interim Hannah Chair in History of Medicine provided a fascinating perspective on the impact of Laennec and his contribution to the development of the stethoscope.
It’s particularly reassuring that the inspiration for this showcase came from one of the youngest among us. Chantalle Valliquette, one of our QuARMS students, shown here with Dr. Jennifer McKenzie (QuARMS Co-Director) and Theresa Suart (Educational Developer), developed and promoted this idea as part of her community outreach project, together with the support and capable assistance of Museum of Health Care staff Maxime Chouinard, Jenny Stepa, Ashley Mendes, Deanna Way, Kathy Karkut and Diana Gore.
Knowing that such dedicated folks are safeguarding and promoting our heritage is, well, inspiring.
Anthony J. Sanfilippo, MD, FRCP(C)
Undergraduate Medical Education