Holding back the grim reaper

Two relief sculptures on the side of the Fulton County Public Health Department in Atlanta, Georgia.


The first is straightforward: the physician warding off death. It’s what they do, to the best of their ability.


The second image is a bit more arcane, not shared as often but equally symbolic.

With thanks to redditor /u/queenbrewer:

“This counterpart bas relief clearly depicts a woman, presumably a nurse, holding a sword. The sword depicts Hygeia , Asclepius’ daughter and the goddess of hygiene, who holds a snake drinking from a bowl, typically symbolizing pharmacy. She fights against a man (perhaps Father Time) holding the mask of tragedy representing suffering in one hand and an hourglass representing aging in the other.”

The TL;DR here seems to be a variant of what I’ve heard around the medical community: “Doctors diagnose, nurses heal.”

Beautiful tributes to all dedicated healthcare workers.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

5 responses to “Holding back the grim reaper

  1. The Staff that the physician is holding is the Wrong Staff… he is holding Caduceus but it should be the Rod of Asclepius!

      • Not true. “The caduceus is often incorrectly used as a symbol of healthcare organizations and medical practice, particularly in the United States of America”.

      • Absolutely true. If you read the entire comment thread, you will see that this has already been addressed. It may be “incorrectly” used, but has become the widely accepted standard, in the same way that a blue moon is no longer the fourth full moon in a season, which is the correct definition, but rather the second full moon in any given month. That’s wrong, but it is now the widely accepted definition, particularly by the media. Things change. Live with it.

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