William Liao

July 26, 2021

How things should be

In the 1847 Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis implemented a mandatory hand washing policy for anyone who worked with him in the Vienna General Hospital based on his theory that washing hands could dramatically reduce infection risk and mortality within his ward. 

Much to Dr. Semmelweis’ excitement, the mortality rate in the hospital’s physician-run maternity ward dropped shortly after implementing his policy. 

Naturally, you would think that the medical community would soak up this experiment and seek to expand hand washing policies in other hospitals…except this wasn’t at all the case. 

The Vienne hospital abandoned Dr. Semmelweis’ policy.

Despite replicating his results in other hospitals and publishing on the topic of hand washing, it wouldn’t be until about two decades later that physicians began to widely adopt the practice of scrubbing before procedures and then another decade after that until the practice made it into national hand hygiene guidelines. 

And today of course, the idea of washing hands is conventional wisdom. 

Historically, the cards have been typically stacked against those who dare to question the world’s current state and to imagine it differently.

Change is hard. 

Preconceived notions of the way things should be are sticky. 

To have any chance of bringing a new idea into the world is to be equally tenacious as those who seek to reject it. 

Bravery isn’t a just a matter of daring to imagine brand new ideas, it’s also a matter of being a persistent advocate of those ideas. 

All conventional wisdom started out as unconventional wisdom. 

There is no such thing as the way things should be; there is merely how things are and how they change with wisdom.