Aequanimitas

Aequanimitas, a Latin word derived from aequo animo, “with even mind”, meaning equanimity or calmness of mind.

Excerpts from Sir William Osler’s Valedictory Address at the University of Pennsylvania on May 1st, 1889:

I could have the heart to spare you, poor, careworn survivors of a hard struggle, so “lean and pale and leaden-eyed with study;” and my tender mercy constrains me to consider but two of the score of elements which may make or mar your lives—which may contribute to your success, or help you in the days of failure.

In the first place, in the physician or surgeon no quality takes rank with imperturbability, and I propose for a few minutes to direct your attention to this essential bodily virtue. Perhaps I may be able to give those of you, in whom it has not developed during the critical scenes of the past month, a hint or two of its importance, possibly a suggestion for its attainment. Imperturbability means coolness and presence of mind under all circumstances, calmness amid storm, clearness of judgment in moments of grave peril, immobility, impassiveness, or, to use an old and expressive word, phlegm. It is the quality which is most appreciated by the laity though often misunderstood by them; and the physician who has the misfortune to be without it, who betrays indecision and worry, and who shows that he is flustered and flurried in ordinary emergencies, loses rapidly the confidence of his patients.

In the second place, there is a mental equivalent to this bodily endowment, which is as important in our pilgrimage as imperturbability. Let me recall to your minds an incident related of that best of men and wisest of rulers, Antoninus Pius, who, as he lay dying, in his home at Loriam in Etruria, summed up the philosophy of life in the watchword, Aequanimitas. As for him, about to pass flammantia moenia mundi (the flaming rampart of the world), so for you, fresh from Clotho’s spindle, a calm equanimity is the desirable attitude. How difficult to attain, yet how necessary, in success as in failure!

Read the complete essay: Aequanimitas

Osler with students at the bedside!
Osler with students at the bedside!

This section of ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ is a concoction of thoughts, stories and anecdotes from our experiences in medicine and on its fringes (truth mixed with fiction to protect the innocent). Added to the mix are posts from the intersection of medicine with the sciences, the arts and literature, history, politics and philosophy.

Sandnsurf’s Medical Musings
Precordialthump’s Aesculapian Experiences
Poetry & Medicine
History, Biography & Medicine

Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also the Innovation Lead for the Australian Centre for Health Innovation at Alfred Health and Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of two amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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