Although we might not all live in a “substantial Victorian house” like William Osler’s, we can all embrace the welcoming spirit of “The Open Arms,” and invite more of our learners into our homes for informal meetings, mentorship, and maybe even tea.
While attending the The Doctor as a Humanist meeting this year in Mallorca, I stumbled on one small way that we—as teachers—might get Closer to Osler.
In Mallorca, I met Queen’s University Belfast professor and medical education scholar Tim Dornan, who told me about the all-day Writing Retreats he regularly hosts at his home for trainees. Dornan said these retreats were inspired by William Osler, whose home in Oxford was referred to as “The Open Arms,” since he entertained colleagues and students there so frequently.
“Having purchased 13 Norham Gardens, a very substantial Victorian house close to the Radcliffe Infirmary, he would frequently invite students and staff and visitors to his home for tea or supper, would then take them to the library to look at and discuss books, their authors and their significance, and in this way inspired many young men and women to read and discover for themselves. So many and varied were the guests at his house that it came to be called “The Open Arms”. Students, teachers, refugees, soldiers, anyone with the vaguest connections, dropped in there and was always welcome. On the day of a conference it would be no new thing for him to bring 120 physicians to tea, having in the morning as he went out hinted that he would bring in “about a dozen” at tea-time.”
I talked to one of Dornan’s PhD advisees, Annalisa Manca, who has attended Dornan’s home-based retreats. At one, she worked all morning on her own writing project and then spent the afternoon co-authoring—from start to finish—a manuscript with several junior colleagues. Meanwhile, Dornan baked bread and provided a steady supply of coffee and tea, in addition to moral and intellectual support.
Although we all might not live in a “substantial Victorian house” like Osler’s, we can all embrace the welcoming spirit of “The Open Arms” and invite more of our learners into our homes for informal meetings, mentorship, and maybe even tea.