Divided Knowledge

Super specialisation in the last few decades has become commonplace. In the hospital we now have surgeons who can only operate on hands for example. Other doctors often joke that some of these surgeons only operate on the left hand and not the right.

But even the doctors who don’t consider themselves super-specialised are nowadays. Is an orthopaedic surgeon who can’t read an ECG/EKG really a doctor any more? What about the paediatric consultant who doesn’t know what a MI is? What about the General Medical doctor who can’t competently diagnose and treat a simple case of Psoriasis and makes a referral to the dermatologists for help?

Superficially this doesn’t seem to be a big deal. If you’re a doc hired to operate on hands and that’s what you’re good at then great! But it seems that in a wider context this is causing real problems.

For example, is the doctor who operates on hands really that great if they are oblivious to how elbows work? Surely the two are linked and how one functions will affect the other.

The problem is that very few people realise how many problems specialisation causes. People don’t realise because the effects are difficult to detect.

It used to be that scientists were also philosophers and theologians. Perhaps to understand science on a more in depth level you need to understand philosophy and theology.

And perhaps the doctor who is super specialised and hasn’t learnt about business, about the economy, about technology, about the subject of medicine itself at a deep level is massively handicapped in different modalities of thought.

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