Health professionals must avoid excessive pride in scientific
and professional matters, and science alone cannot make
decisions on policy matters, or in medicine, Prof Peter
Prof Gluckman, a University of Otago medical graduate and
medical researcher, was addressing about 270 graduates,
mainly in medicine and medical laboratory science, at an
Otago graduation ceremony at the weekend.
He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of science at the
1pm ceremony, which was the first of two Otago University
ceremonies held at the Dunedin Town Hall on Saturday.
The processes of science were designed to develop
''relatively reliable knowledge about the natural, built and
The only other sources of knowledge were ultimately those of
''belief or dogma'' but science alone could not create policy
decisions or in medicine or public health, he warned.
And science itself was ''never complete''.
An objective test might provide a diagnosis, but did not deal
with many aspects of the relative benefits and risks of
different approaches, or with ''the beliefs, bias and context
of a patient or yourself''.
Values determined the importance of the ''inevitable
inductive gaps in the evidence''.
''You will soon be no strangers to this dilemma - is one more
test necessary? Too few and you have a risk of misdiagnosis,
too many and health costs soar as defensive medicine becomes
Health professionals needed to be honest with patients about
'' what components are based on knowledge'' and what were
''Both as a health professional and as a graduate of this
university, you have obligations to assist society, as well
as healing the sick,'' he said.
And in another graduation address, at 4pm, Otago School of
Dentistry dean Prof Gregory Seymour reminded graduates of
their obligation, as the future of their profession, to ''see
further'', and to extend the knowledge and clinical practice
of their respective professions.
He told about 280 graduates, mainly in dentistry and
physiotherapy, that it had been often stated that knowledge
was doubling every two and a-half years.
Half of what was known would be ''obsolete'' in five years,
but graduates had prepared themselves for ''a lifetime of
Otago University was ''one of the world's great
universities'' and graduates could be confident they ''could
not have received a better education anywhere else in the
Graduates had received backing from their respective
families, but society as a whole, and especially Dunedin, as
a city, had also supported them and ''taken pride in your
Society now expected more of health science graduates, but
was also ''less tolerant of any unethical behaviour'', he