Close to the beginning of this century, William Osler observed, “The practice of medicine is an art, based on science.” That brief characterization of our profession rings true, even as we approach the next century in the midst of brilliant, accelerating scientific discovery.
Some aspects of the art—including compassion and the basic skills of history taking and physical examination—are, or should be, common to all physicians and remain largely unchanged by a century of research. In other ways, the “art,” which can also be translated as “craft” from the original Greek work “techne,” has been greatly enlarged and diversified by science and technology. Thus, the special skills required by a gynecologic oncologist derive not only from experience and practice, but also from the proliferation of knowledge in many branches of science. Indeed, it is mainly the developments of science in obstetrics and gynecology—and in some other disciplines—that have evolved the clinical subspeciality of gynecologic oncology.
The art and the science are connected not only by ancestry, however. Their relationship continues to be an interdependent one. One of the ever-expanding glories of medicine is that what is learned in the laboratory can enhance learning at the bedside and what is learned from experience with patients helps to shape and direct scientific inquiry.
Doctors who remain lifelong students are exhilarated by these interconnections and make the best teachers of clinical medicine. It is in the scholarly tradition that Jonathan S. Berek and Neville F. Hacker, with contributions from distinguished colleagues in their own discipline and in fields that bear upon it, have brought together the salient information required to develop the acumen and skills that enable clinicians to understand and to care for women suffering from tumors.
Practical Gynecologic Oncology reflects the indivisibility of art and science in medicine. The two editors—one in Los Angeles and one in Sydney—worked and studied together for 7 years in the same hospital and laboratories and remain mutually helpful intellectual allies on opposites shores of the Pacific Ocean.