It’s easy to find pithy medical quotes on the internet attributed to charlatans and frauds. What’s not easy is to find genuine quotes on the profession from actual doctors.
The reason we know these quotes are the real deal? They come from high-profile “famous” doctors themselves. People who either appear in the history books or TV.
Here are 27 mind-blowing examples of medical quotes by famous doctors…
Inspiring Medical Quotes By Famous Doctors
Perfect for your med student bios, insta photos, class presentations or whatever else, here are 7 inspiring medical quotes by famous doctors to help kick things off.
1. “The physician must be able to tell the antecedents, know the present, and foretell the future…to do good or to do no harm.”
Greek physician and the “Father of Medicine” Hippocrates came up with this. It makes up part of The Hippocratic Oath, the ethical standards new physicians are expected to swear on.
2. “I have always believed that the primary function of doctors should be to teach people how not to get sick in the first place. The word “doctor” comes from the Latin word for “teacher.””
American celebrity physician Andrew Weil, author of thid quote, is best known for his emotional writing style.
Recognized for his work in the emerging field of integrative medicine, Weil is a graduate of Harvard Medical School’s class of 1968.
His studies weren’t without controversy.
3. “As a GP, I think that reassurance is 90% of your job, but equally as important is how you deliver it.”
Pixie McKenna is an Irish doctor and TV personality who is known for her documentary making and newspaper journalism.
This quote, taken from her interview in the Irish Independent, carries an inspiring message.
4. “There are only two sorts of doctors: those who practice with their brains, and those who practice with their tongues.”
Canadian physician William Olser is best known as being one of the four founding fathers of John Hopkins hospital. This quote serves as a good reminder that there’s more to medicine than prescribing drugs.
5. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Psychiatrist and neurologist Victor Frankl, author of seminal book Man’s Search For Meaning, knows a thing or two about choosing one’s path.
A survivor of the holocaust, Frankl first graduated as a doctor in Vienna in 1930.
6. “Nobody, but nobody, is going to stop breathing on me!”
Known as the first woman to become a full professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, there’s no doubt about Virgina Apgar’s credentials.
Her passion and enthusiasm for saving lives comes across strong in this quote.
It was said in reference to her always carrying her resuscitation equipment.
7. “Penicillin sat on a shelf for ten years while I was called a quack.”
Alexander Fleming had to struggle for years to get the respect he deserved for discovering penicillin. In the process, he essentially saved millions of people from death at the hand’s of infectious bacterial diseases.
His tenacity and willingness to never give up, speaks volumes.
Motivating Medical Quotes By Famous Doctors
8. “As a medical doctor, it is my duty to evaluate the situation with as much data as I can gather and as much expertise as I have and as much experience as I have to determine whether or not the wish of the patient is medically justified.”
Famed for his work in the assisted suicides of the terminally ill, Jack Kevorkian’s approach to medicine was not without controversy.
His analysis however is something we can all benefit from.
9. “No matter how old you are, no matter how much you weigh, you can still control the health of your body.”
American neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing, a pioneer of brain surgery, always knew best how to motivate the general public concerning matters of health.
10. “When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, strength cannot fight, intelligence cannot be applied, art cannot become manifest, wealth becomes useless.”
Greek physician Herophilus, deemed one of the earliest anatomists, spoke often of the importance of health.
His work as a doctor did not go unnoticed.
11. “We need more physicians on air. We understand the human being, experience and condition, and we need to be using media to deliver that. We cannot be afraid to entertain…”
Drew Pinsky, commonly known to U.S. TV audiences as “Dr Drew” is an addiction medicine specialist.
His calls for more medics to share their knowledge are particularly motivational.
12. “Mental health is the final frontier of medicine that we need to crack. So many people struggle on feeling lonely, isolated, unsupported, lost and unable to cope. This must change.”
British TV doctor Christian Jesson is a keen advocate of mental health matters. Often forgotten in the medical field, his battle to bring them back to the forefront is encouraging.
13. “Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.”
Not technically a medical doctor, I think we can make exceptions for French microbiologist Louis Pasteur.
His work discovering vaccinations, microbial fermentation and pasteurization have done a lot to shape modern med.
14. “I hope that some day the practice of producing cowpox in human beings will spread over the world – when that day comes, there will be no more smallpox.”
Someone who’s medical credentials cannot be debate is English physician and scientist Edward Jenner. His work vaccinating smallpox was a monumental moment in medicine.
15. “The more fashionable doctors in Italy, began to delegate to slaves the manual attentions they deemed necessary for their patients … that the art of medicine went to ruin.”
Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius, from whom this quote is taken, knew about the threat of complacency in medicine.
His view? The physician should be central to the entire process of healing.
16. “Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.”
Better known for his literary work rather than his medical, Michael Crichton (another medical graduate of Harvard Med), was always going to have a way with words.
Beautiful Medical Quotes By Famous Doctors
17. “In examining disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy and physiology and biology. In examining the person with disease, we gain wisdom about life.”
Neurosurgeon and author Oliver Sacks always has magical things to say about medicine. Here’s a beautiful quote of his to ponder on.
18. “Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another’s cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.”
Author of the fantastic When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalinithi’s background in English Literature was always going to make for beautiful quotes.
His work in neurosurgery was cut short by his untimely death from lung cancer.
19. “If the love of surgery is a proof of a person’s being adapted for it, then certainly I am fitted…what a high degree of enjoyment I am having from day to day experiencing in this bloody and butchering department of the healing art.”
British surgeon Joseph Lister, famed for his work in antiseptic pioneer, really sells the profession in this quote.
20. “So I told them the truth: the hours are terrible, the pay is terrible, the conditions are terrible; you’re underappreciated, unsupported, disrespected and frequently physically endangered. But there’s no better job in the world.”
While former UK doctor Adam Kay, author of the hilarious must read This Is Going To Hurt, is a little more realistic about the whole thing.
21. “Learn to listen with your fingers.”
Helen B. Taussig, known as the founder of pediatric cardiology and her work on “blue baby” syndrome, serves up this beatiful reminder of how best to approach medical care.
22. “The purpose of a doctor or any human in general should not be to simply delay the death of the patient, but to increase the person’s quality of life. ”
U.S. doctor Patch Adams, from whom the film of the same name (starring Robin Williams) is based, is attributed to this quote.
Emotional Medical Quotes By Famous Doctors
23. “A physician is obligated to consider more than a diseased organ, more even than the whole man – he must view the man in his world.”
Mehmet Oz, known more familarly as “Dr Oz”, is a well-known TV personality and cardiothoracic surgeon. His views on medical treatment, as per this quote, are very thought-provoking.
24. “I don’t believe medical discoveries are doing much to advance human life. As fast as we create ways to extend it we are inventing ways to shorten it.”
South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard, the first doctor to ever perform heart surgery, is as full of warnings as he is inspiration.
25. “There is only one cardinal rule: One must always listen to the patient.”
There is only one cardinal rule to this quote selection; they must have come from actual medical doctors. Nevertheless, Oliver Sacks (featured for the second time) doesn’t disappoint with this diatribe.
26. “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”
American pediatrician Benjamin Spock, best known for his best-selling book Baby and Child Care (1946), is a great one to go to when you need to calm that self doubt.
27. “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
While psychiatrist Carl Jung, author of these words, bookends this whole article nicely.
Interested In Medical Literature?
If these quotes have piqued your curiosity and you’re keen to learn more about the intensely fascinating world of medical doctoring, then I’ve got an additional recommendation.
I read it in during my year preparing for med school and it left me in sheer awe as to the importance of medicine and the roles of doctors across the globe.
A New York Times Bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist, it’s one of the finest (and most tragic) memoirs I’ve ever read.
Here’s an extra taste of it, with possibly my favorite quote:
“Death comes for all of us. For us, for our patients: it is our fate as living, breathing, metabolizing organisms. Most lives are lived with passivity toward death — it’s something that happens to you and those around you. But Jeff and I had trained for years to actively engage with death, to grapple with it, like Jacob with the angel, and, in so doing, to confront the meaning of a life. We had assumed an onerous yoke, that of mortal responsibility. Our patients’ lives and identities may be in our hands, yet death always wins. Even if you are perfect, the world isn’t. The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”Paul Kalinithi
Final Thoughts: Medical Quotes By Famous Doctors
The quotes above? Hopefully given you more of a window into what practicing medicine can be like.
If you liked this article, you might find the following a great read too:
Image Credit: @Matheus Ferrero at Unsplash
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.