All but two words of this saying are derived from the literal translation of a French folk saying that dates at least from the 15th century:
To cure sometimes
To relieve often
To comfort always
Although over 500 years old, this saying is most often associated with Edward Livingstone Trudeau (1), a physician who spent his life caring for people affected with tuberculosis. When Trudeau died in 1915, a statue of him was created by the sculptor Gutzon Borglum (2) (who is best known for carving the images of four presidents on the side of Mount Rushmore). Borglum added the French saying to the base of the statue, presumably because it was a favorite of Trudeau's.
For the IVR motto, we have substituted the word "help" for "relieve" simply because it sounds a bit more modern and more active. The substitution of the word "eventually" for "sometimes" has a deeper -- and to us, important -- rationale. The word "sometimes" implies that a cure (meaning a nearly complete eradication of a disease) is either possible or not. While this is undoubtedly true at any point in time, many of the diseases that we work on affect people for decades; and, we are convinced that some diseases that cannot be cured today will be cured during the lifetimes of some of our patients. The word "eventually" adds the concept of a cure in the future. The word "eventually" has a second important connotation and that is "the progressive realization of a worthy goal", which was Earl Nightingale's (3) definition of success. That is, success is not an all or none quantity determined at a single point in time, but rather a process that leads steadily to the achievement of the worthy goal. Thus, for us, the word "eventually" conveys a long-term commitment to achieving the ambitious goals laid out in our mission statement.
One of the most important means of providing comfort employed by the members of the IVR is to provide patients and families with “realistic hope” for a cure. Realistic hope requires a detailed feasible plan AND a group of capable people dedicated to executing that plan until it is successful. The last line of the IVR “culture document” reads: “We intend to, and we will, succeed.”
Our commitment to effective cures for heritable blindness is also conveyed by the institute’s motto: vivimus enim remedium (we live for the cure).
For those of us who care for patients with progressive, potentially blinding conditions, Dr. Trudeau's life and work are a source of hope and inspiration. His work as a physician and scientist spanned barely more than 30 years (1882-1915) and at the time of his death in 1915, a reliable medicinal "cure" for tuberculosis undoubtedly seemed quite a bit less likely than a cure for macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa seems today. Penicillin, the first antibiotic, wouldn't be discovered until 1928 (4). Still, Trudeau painstakingly pursued the cause of the disease (becoming the first in the United States to culture the causative organism) and the beneficial effects of fresh air and exercise. His sanitarium in the Adirondacks treated tens of thousands of patients, helping and comforting, until the cure that he envisioned finally gained the upper hand, and the sanitarium closed in 1954. What a concept! Imagine the day that a specialized facility for the study of macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other hereditable eye diseases is no longer necessary because the diseases have been nearly eradicated.
– Edwin M. Stone