Category Archives: quotations

On Death – by Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Interpretation by 17th century French painter Jean II Restout

On his deathbed, it was purported that Alexander the Great summoned his generals and told them of his three last wishes:

1.  The best doctors should carry his coffin;
2.  The wealth he has accumulated (money, gold, precious stones) should be scattered along the procession to the cemetery, and
3.  His hands should be let loose, hanging outside the coffin for all to see.

Surprised by these unusual requests, the generals asked him to explain and this was his reply:

1.  I want the best doctors to carry my coffin to demonstrate that, in the face of death, even the best doctors in the world have no power to heal.
2.  I want the road to be covered with my treasure so that everybody sees that material wealth acquired on earth, stays on earth.
3.  I want my hands to swing in the wind, so that people understand that we come to this world empty handed and we leave this world empty handed after the most precious treasure of all is exhausted, and that is TIME.
TIME is our most precious treasure because it is LIMITED.  We can produce more wealth, but we cannot produce more time.

True or not, these quotes do carry significant lessons in life.

As a doctor, I am particularly attracted to the first point. Sometimes, we do face situations where relatives do expect us to prevent or postpone the inevitable; not only is this impossible but it results in humbly putting doctors and care-givers in their place..that the Almighty proposes and man disposes. Yes, and one’s time is finite.

Doctors are not God and many doctors, including myself, live by this credo:

“To cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always”

-ascribed to Hippocrates (Greek physician, 460-370 BC)


Today’s Healthcare Quote

On Eating..

Now that the month of Ramadhan is over for Muslims (the month when they do not eat or drink from dawn to dusk), there is a tendency for many to do the opposite!

I feel its timely to highlight 2 quotes which come out from my previous blog entries:

“I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand.”

Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin
Yes, the perils of over-eating….obesity,raised blood cholesterol,the surfacing of diabetes…the list goes on.
The second quote (my favorite, but not necessarily those of my doctor colleagues!):
Found on a Hieroglyph, from an ancient Egyptian tomb

“One quarter of what you eat keeps you alive.  The other three-quarters keeps your doctor alive”.

No comments needed here!

Red Wine – the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

So, is red wine good for you?

The good part relates of course to the much-publicised  high content of polyphenols which originate from the skins, seeds, and vine stems of red grapes. This anti-oxidant comes in two main forms: flavonoids and nonflavonoids, the latter being the one well-known for resveratrol, the substance known to be the found in the skin of the red grape (or for that matter, any of the colored berries, like raspberry,cranberry,blueberry,etc).

Red, Rose or White? Choose Red for Resveratrol

One of most well-documented benefits of red wine is the heart protective effect. Moderate consumption of red wine on a regular basis may be a prevent coronary heart disease, as well as increasing the levels of the good HDL-cholesterol. It is believed the polyphenols as anti-oxidants also prevent plaque formation and clogging of the arteries in the heart, besides having an anti-clotting effect that causes ‘thinning’ of the blood.

And what’s moderate consumption? 2 glasses (1 glass=5 oz=150 cc) for men and 1 glass for women daily.

And what about the bad? Even the Bard knew about this –

‘Alcohol provokes the desire, but takes away the performance.’

(Shakespeare (1564-1616), Macbeth; Act II, Scene 3)

Also, apart from migraine and dehydration (the thirst the morning after), the alcohol in the wine interacts with a lot of medications special warning to those taking tranquillizers and sedatives because alcohol is a downer which adds on to the effects of these pills to cause, in extreme cases, inability to breathe, coma and death. Impairment of attention and skills, including delayed reaction times is a well-known danger for drivers, a fact well-known in causing serious accidents on the road. Temporary amnesia is well-known among boozers, and is best exemplified by UB40’s Red Red Wine:

Red, red wine
Goes to my head
Makes me forget that I
Still need you so

And what about the ugly side of drinking wine? This goes to those who pretend to be wine-buffs and make common mistakes.. such as:

  • mis-pronounciation: saying Pinot Noir and pronouncing the ‘T’. Saying Semillion as it is spelt instead of ‘Seh-Mee-Yhon’.
  • Ignorance: complaining that the waiter didn’t pour them enough wine, when the intention was for them to taste it. Or making it a point that the red wine was too warm.
  • Misplaced beliefs: ordering a bottle of expensive wine just so it looks like they know their wine, when they haven’t a clue what they’re actually drinking.
  • Misplaced practices: vigorously swilling the wine around in the glass to allow it to breathe but then embarrassingly spilling it over themselves. Or (this one takes the cake) complaining to the waiter  that the wine was corked, not realising it came from a screw-top bottle.

At the end of the day, it might help, especially to those who do not touch alcohol, to note that the beneficial effects of red wine comes not from the alcohol but from the skin of the red grape, so it is believed that fresh juices from coloured berries, like raspberry,cranberry,blueberry,etc, may confer a similar effect. Cheers!

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Quote For The Year 2010

People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year,
when they should be worried about what they eat
between the New Year and Christmas.

Having said that, I would like to wish you a great 2010 as we enter the new decade..

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To Eat or Not To Eat

This being the weekend, most people’s thoughts would turn more towards food; so I thought I’d rehash two worthwhile quotes from previous blog postings which I hope would give some food for thought!

“I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand.”

Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin

(from my posting “On Eating” July 13,2008)

The second quote, from the posting of August 13,2008, is one of my favorites; with apologies to my colleagues!

Found on a Hieroglyph, from an ancient Egyptian tomb

“One quarter of what you eat keeps you alive.  The other three-quarters keeps your doctor alive”.

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On Ballooning Healthcare Costs..


Wahyu steak - try getting the fat out of this one!

“It’s not like the fat sits out here easily identified and you just slice it off. It’s marbled throughout the meat.”

Jon M. Kingsdale, executive director of the agency that administers the universal healthcare service in Massachusetts, when asked to identify and reduce costs so that the healthcare budget will fall in line.

My comment: For those preaching universal healthcare (free healthcare for everybody), there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Someone’s got to pay for it, be it the individual or the state. You can try to reduce costs, but that’s easier said than done. Great quote!

For Those Studying Medicine..(4)

The superior doctor prevents sickness;
The mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness;
The inferior doctor treats actual sickness;

-Old Chinese Proverb

Comments: This saying exemplifies the holistic concept of Chinese traditional medicine, whereas Western medicine focuses mainly on curative treatment. If there’s an infection, the Western-trained doctor would focus on antibiotics to knock off the bug, but Chinese medicine would attribute it to imbalance of forces in the person and focus on their general wellbeing and rectifying the imbalance. There is a greater emphasis on prevention; as seen by the omnipresent barefoot doctors promoted by Mao Tse-Tung in the 1960s.

Medical students should not forget that preventative medicine is the backbone of their role as doctors and not over-emphasize curative treatment. The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease, so said Thomas Edison.

Management staff can learn from this too : it is important to pre-empt any problems from arising; by looking out for warning signals, rather than allow untoward events to eventually happen.

For Those Studying Medicine..(3)

Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine

“To cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always”

-ascribed to Hippocrates (Greek physician, 460-370 BC)


As a medical student this message would have been drummed in countless times; and, as a young doctor, one will realise that permanent eradication of illness is not always possible and that many diseases cannot be cured.   One needs to not just administer pain-killers but also to devote time to understand the patient’s agenda despite a busy work schedule, offer empathy and, most important, seeing the patient as a human being, not just an object to operate on or to inject drugs in.

When treatment has failed to cure and patients are about to die, many doctors and nurses feel they have failed and give up their hands in despair.  Don’t forget that that the dying patient still requires another form of treatment  –  palliative care.

For Those Studying Medicine… (2)

Sir William Osler : Canadian-born and regarded as the most influential physician in history

“When a doctor treats himself, he has a fool for a patient”

Sir William Osler (1849-1919)


Came across this statement by a doctor writing about her personal experiences, and its worth remembering for those who are studying medicine.  They will teach you in medical schools not to treat your own relatives, but not many will also say flatly that doctors should not treat themselves.

The reasons are manifold : professional objectivity is compromised, proper history and physical examination is difficult( try looking into your ear canals!), diagnostic reasoning may be faulty and emotional feelings like denial may come into play.

Emergency treatment and minor problems aside, it is best to consult a professional colleague. Doctors ask patients  to seek medical care from doctors, so doctors are no different. Practise what you preach!

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