verb prosum, meaning to be
helpful, to be useful, and to heal.
It is related to the Latin verb sum
I am, with its infinitive esse. In
his Latin grammar class, young
Hamlet might have contemplated
esse non esse. “To be or not to be.”
I like to translate this word
as “to heal” and put it in the
beginning of the English version.
Omnibus: Omnibus is the plural
of the noun omnis, meaning “all”
and is in the accusative case.
In English this would be the
objective case. Interestingly, our
word “bus” is derived from this
word; the ending -bus signifies
transportation for everyone.
This word can be seen on New
Jersey taxi and bus license plates.
Additionally, a power strip is a
power bus. With prodesse this
is the main thrust of the motto
“to heal all.” We are not to
discriminate among whom we
heal—we treat all comers.
Per: The preposition per means
“through,” “by,” or “by means
of.” NPO is a standard medical
abbreviation for nil per os: nothing
by mouth, not even ice chips.
Putting this into English is an
awkward construction, so the
ACS and I translate this as “with.”
-que: The conjunction -que
is added to the second word
of a construction, substituting
for the English “and.” For
example, senatus populusque
Romanus translates as “equality
between the Senate and
the citizens of Rome.”
Artem: The art in artem
fidemque refers to the art of
medicine and surgery. Translators
try not to transliterate a word
into English. The practice of
medicine and surgery requires
skill and this is the primary
definition of the Latin word.
Translating artem as “skill” makes
the English flow more effortlessly.
Fidem: The College has
traditionally translated fidem as
“fidelity,” but, in my opinion,
this translation conveys only a
partial meaning of the word.
The primary definition is “trust,”
and I prefer to translate the word
as such. Patients put their trust
and lives in our hands. We are
entrusted with the surgical care
of our patients. As surgeons,
we carry the burden of the
outcome of our procedures.
The Latin flows easily:
Omnibus per artem fidemque
prodesse. But, as with many
translations, the literal English
is somewhat awkward: To heal
all through the art and fidelity.
My translation is “to heal all
with skill and trust.” Physicians
stand in a long line of healers,
dating from the dawn of
civilization to the present. Our
patients put their trust in us.
Ties to the Hippocratic Oath
Hippocrates lived and practiced
on the island of Kos in the third
and fourth centuries before
the Common Era. He penned
his eponymous oath—which
we all swear to uphold as
physicians—late in his practice.
The Hippocratic Oath, with its
253 words, contains the formula
for a successful medical and
surgical practice. The Affordable
Care Act, with its 234,812 words,
does not even come close.
I would like to discuss two
parts of the Hippocratic Oath as
it relates to us, the ACS motto,
and the College today. 3
I will not cut for stone, even for
patients in whom the disease is
manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.
In antiquity, surgeons were
not part of the Hippocratic
medical community. Surgeons
were “practitioners, specialists in
this art.” The dorsal lithotomy
position is a common placement
of a patient. I prefer to call
this position the “childbirth
position,” recalling the birth of my
daughters. It is literally the “stone
cut” position. I suspect that the
stone being cut is a bladder stone,
as this position would give access
to the bladder just superior to
the pubic ramus. This must have
been a truly horrific procedure,
such that it is the only operation
specifically proscribed in the oath.
We became physicians when
we graduated from medical
school. We became “practitioners,
specialists in this art” when
we completed our surgical
residency. We are physicians
first and specialists second.
In purity and holiness I will guard
my life and my art.
Here, the oath emphasizes the
high calling of the healing art.
MAR 2015 BULLE TIN American College of Surgeons
FROM RESIDENCY TO RETIREMENT
The Latin flows easily: Omnibus per artem fidemque prodesse.
But, as with many translations, the literal English is
somewhat awkward: To heal all through the art and fidelity.
My translation is “to heal all with skill and trust.”