The Maimonides (Rambam) Heritage

Toward Becoming an Accomplished Physician: Maimonides versus Galen

Samuel S. Kottek


Although Maimonides stated that perfection in the medical art, both in theoretical and in practical expertise, is very difficult to achieve, he did not accept Galen's opinion, i.e. that perfection is beyond human capability. Any person seeking intellectual perfection should, according to Maimonides' view, be fully trained in logic, in the natural sciences, and in theology. A physician is moreover requested to study and memorize basic medical literature; he must consider each patient as a sick individual, without neglecting the patient's psychological disposition; and he should aim at inspiring confidence and trust, not only to his patient, but also to the latter's environment. Even when feeling competent and trustworthy, the physician should not be conceited; here Maimonides insists on offering his personal experience, in a quite impressive way. This approach of Maimonides to the practice of medicine should be considered, even today, as a valuable incentive for patient-oriented medical education, as already expressed in the late eleventh century.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2011;2(4):e0060