David Bruce: Doctor Anecdotes

Visualization can aid in healing. Sam Brodsky, a martial arts expert, once performed a demonstration before his students. He attempted to break nine one-inch concrete slabs with his bare hands; unfortunately, he injured his hand while breaking only seven of the slabs. His doctor examined the hand, then said that after a year of healing, he would be able to regain only partial use of it. Each night, Mr. Brodsky imagined that his hand was a building site and that a horde of little men were working all night long with mortar and cement to rebuild his hand. Each morning, he imagined a whistle going off after the little men had worked all night on his hand. The next time Mr. Brodsky saw his doctor, the doctor said that the healing process was remarkable, but that his knuckles were frozen together, creating a stiff hand. Therefore, Mr. Brodsky changed the visualization process and imagined the little men working with files and oil to sand the rough edges off his knuckles and lubricate them. The visualization worked. Instead of a year, the healing process took only 10 weeks. Six months after that, Mr. Brodsky again attempted to break nine one-inch concrete slabs with his hand and succeeded.

Rabbi Ishmael was walking on a road when he met a sick man. Seeing a farmer working in a field nearby, he asked him to get a physician for the sick man. However, the farmer refused, saying that the man’s life was in the hands of God. If God wanted the man to live, he would live; but if God wanted the man to die, he would die. Rabbi Ishmael pointed out that the growing of crops was in the hands of God. If God wanted the crops to grow, they would grow; but if God wanted the crops to die, they would die. Nevertheless, the farmer used a plow and planted seeds, showing that he was in a partnership with God to make crops live. So it is with a physician, who works in a partnership with God to make men live. After hearing this, the farmer summoned a physician.

Dr. Rose Smart treats many injured ballet dancers. Among other things, she pushes a dancer’s lumbar back into place when needed. Normally, she does this by having the injured person lie on her back and flex her legs against her. Then Dr. Rose would give a push, and the lumbar would go back into place. However, early in her career, she was unaware of the strength of ballet dancers. She once told a ballerina to push her leg with all her strength — and Dr. Smart ended up peeling herself from the wall. On another occasion, she did the same procedure with a male dancer, and he broke one of her ribs. Now she uses a different procedure to treat dancers with lumbar problems.

An Army doctor had a crisis of conscience because it seemed that every time he succeeded in healing a wounded soldier, the soldier would go back into battle only to get killed. Therefore, the doctor left the Army and studied with a Zen master. The study worked, and the doctor returned to the Army. Thereafter, whenever he had doubts about why he was healing soldiers, he told himself, “Because I’m a doctor.”

Dancers often have physical problems, just like athletes. Suzanne Farrell, a ballerina with the New York City Ballet, suffered from arthritis, which necessitated a hip replacement operation late in her career. Before getting the operation, she asked her doctor to watch her dance — the same doctor who had looked at her X-rays and stated that she shouldn’t be capable of walking. As Ms. Farrell puts it, her doctor was “flabbergasted” at the performance.

In the 1800s, many people did their own doctoring. A book titled Dr. Gunn’s Domestic Medicine even explained how to perform an amputation, saying that “any man, unless he was a fool or an idiot, could amputate an arm or a leg.” All you needed was the book and a few instruments. Oh yeah, since this was in the days before anesthesia, you also needed “half a dozen men to hold the victim down.”

While performing in a Marx Brothers play on Broadway, Groucho went to the footlights and asked, “Is there a doctor in the house?” When a doctor stood up, Groucho asked him, “If you’re a doctor, why aren’t you at the hospital making your patients miserable, instead of wasting your time here with that blonde?”

The Count de Granie had been wounded in the knee during a campaign. The surgeons worked on his knee for a while, then the Count asked why they were making so many incisions. Hearing that the surgeons were looking for the bullet, the Count replied, “Don’t bother — I have it in my pocket.”

Alessandra Giliani of Bologna helped advance medical knowledge in the early 14th century. At that time, physicians weren’t sure which were the veins and which were the arteries in the human body. Ms. Giliani removed the blood from the veins and arteries of corpses, then injected them with different-colored dyes, thus allowing them to be studied.

In the late 1500s, Marie Colinet of Berne, Germany, invented a medical technique that is still used today. One of her patients had a sliver of metal in an eye and was faced with the prospect of going blind. Ms. Colinet used a magnet to remove the sliver of metal.

On opening night, Ralph Richardson stepped out of character on stage and asked the audience, “Is there a doctor in the house?” A man stood up and identified himself as a doctor, then Sir Ralph asked him, “Doctor, isn’t this play awful?”

John Taylor was a physician who operated on the eyes of the historian Edward Gibbon and the composers George Frideric Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach. In each case, he ruined their eyesight.

Tomomura Yushoshi, a physician, was respected for his honesty. Whenever a patient asked for information about his family background, Yushoshi replied honestly, “I am the son of a Nagasaki prostitute.”

© 2016, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved

David Bruce has written lots of collections of anecdotes, plus other books. Take a look at the list here:


Most of the anecdotes are funny; some are thought provoking.

Download Resist Psychic Death: 250 Anecdotes and Stories, free, by David Bruce here:


Download Free eBooks, including The Kindest People series of collections of accounts of good deeds, by David Bruce here:


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