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THE figure of the country doctor is one which has always appealed to the public as being representative of the best qualities in American character. The typical picture is of an elderly old-school physician braving the wilds of blizzards to bring medical aid to the suffering. Usually he is thought of as poor and self-sacrificing, frequently giving his services for nothing, or possibly in exchange for some of the produce of a farm.
Dr. Macartney's book brings this character out of the realms of imagination, and shows him to be even greater than the uninitiated had supposed. In THE COUNTRY DOCTOR, we have the reminiscences of a man who has lived in a small town in up-state New York, close to the Canadian border. Small though the town is, the area which must be covered by a doctor is vast and wild. His patients range from Indians and French-Canadians, to small farmers and village folk, and his duties from major operations to treating contagious illnesses.
The characteristic which will make this book popular among the reading public is the sincerity, wisdom, and quiet humor of the author. The people he talks about are described with the greatest reality, yet they frequently remind the reader of various rustic characters in fiction. But aside from the fictional element, the book contains a wealth of information on disorders of the body and their treatment. These are exact but not pedantically scholarly, so that the reader absorbs a great deal of medical information without realizing it.
After the book is laid aside, the ideal of a genial and utterly proficient doctor remains in mind. The kindliness and unselfishness of his long career make us wonder whether such a man will be able to find his place in the bureaucracy which seems inevitable in government public health. The question immediately arises as to whether this ideal of the country doctor can survive that trend.
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