A journey in time -The history of medicine

In history of medicine  there isn’t one doctor/physician better than another. They are all equal because if one of them would not do a specific discovery the other one could not continue it and improve the discovery .We can learn a few things from each of them. Many of the ideas found throughout history have relevance today , for example the  discovery of Penicillin,  DNA ,  Insulin , X-ray , smallpox vaccine and so on.

As a future med student ,I think that studying the history of medicine is one of the first things that any med student should do.We need to know how medicine evolved if we want to understand it ; from the first discoveries (e.g. Sushruta,Galen) to the most recent ones (e.g. Watson and Crick).

Let’s imagine for a second that we are far away from all the technology ,all the vaccines  ,all the things that are related to medicine. We are at the beginning of a beautiful journey , a journey that saved a lot of people over the years. We are in a place where William Harvey is the first person who correctly described the blood circulation, where the smallpox vaccine is discovered , where the mystery of anatomy ,pathology,neurology, physiology and pharmacology are first discovered.

I would like to talk with you about some of my favorite persons in the history of medicine that inspire me everyday and give me the strength to go further in my journey.

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Hippocrates(480 BC) ,who doesn’t know him? The ancient Greek physician ,the father of medicine. Hippocrates was a member of the Asclepiad family, an aristocratic family highly regarded as medical practitioners, with a proud history of serving Greece. He was trained by his father to be a physician. He began work on Kos and married a noble woman whose name is unknown. They had two sons: Thessalus and Dracon, and a daughter, whose name is unknown as well.

Hippocrates wrote that : “Sickness is not sent by the gods or taken away by them. It has a natural basis.If we can find the cause ,we can find the cure.” One of my friends from Medefine, Bogdan, that helps me with my application for UK, told me some really interesting facts about Hippocrates (if you want to know more about Medefine you can find them on facebook  Medefine Education or on the site  Medefine ). Hippocrates had a passion for holistic medicine. He believed that a patient should be considered as a whole, with his head and body – considering the psychological, social, and biological aspects. This is known recently as the “BioPsychoSocial Model” .It suggest that instead of trying to cure the biological problem, you should also understand the social and psychological aspects that could underpin disease. He held the belief that thoughts, ideas, and feelings come from the brain and not the heart as others of him time believed.Also he was the first physician to accurately describe the symptoms of pneumonia, as well as epilepsy in children.

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Sushruta(1000 BC) ,the father of surgery or more like the father of plastic surgery.He was the first to perform cataract and plastic surgery like rhinoplasty that remains the highlight of Sushruta’s surgery. The process of rhinoplasty is described as follows:

The portion of the nose to be covered should be first measured with a leaf. Then a piece of skin of the required size should be dissected from the living skin of the cheek, and turned back to cover the nose, keeping a small pedicle attached to the cheek. The part of the nose to which the skin is to be attached should be made raw by cutting the nasal stump with a knife. The physician then should place the skin on the nose and stitch the two parts swiftly, keeping the skin properly elevated by inserting two tubes of eranda (the castor-oil plant) in the position of the nostrils, so that the new nose gets proper shape. The skin thus properly adjusted, it should then be sprinkled with a powder of licorice, red sandal-wood and barberry plant. Finally, it should be covered with cotton, and clean sesame oil should be constantly applied. When the skin has united and granulated, if the nose is too short or too long, the middle of the flap should be divided and an endeavor made to enlarge or shorten it

It has always been argued  the absence of powerful anaesthetics.How this Indian surgeon carried out such major operations?Sushruta suggest that strong alcohol should be used.

Wine should be used before operation to produce insensibility to pain.The patient who has been fed, does not faint, and he who is rendered intoxicated, does not feel the pain of the operation.

He wrote Sushruta-Samhita or “The Collection of Sushruta” .This is an Indian surgical repair textbook.It has 184 chapters, 1,120 conditions are listed including 51 eye conditions that can be treated surgically. The book also describes 101 blunt and 20 sharp surgical instruments, many of which are surprisingly similar to instruments used today.

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John Snow, no he is not the actor from Games of Thrones. He is the founder of Epidemiology. What is epidemiology? It is the study and analysis of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations.

Back to our hero, Snow was a British physician that was born into a labourer’s family on 15 March 1813.

In 1854 , he identified the source of cholera outbreak.It all started when a major cholera outbreak struck London.The prevailing opinion was that cholera was spread either by miasmas or by person-to-person contact.He examined the neighbourhood, and talked to everyone he could. He was looking for an underlying theme that linked these people together. He suspected some contamination of the water, but couldn’t find any organic matter in it. After further investigations ,he provided more evidence for his theory that the pump was responsible for all of this.

Not only he was a epidemiologist but he was also a pioneer in the field of anaesthetics.The physician who first made anesthesia scientific by showing how the human body responded to different doses of anesthetic drugs, and how anesthesia affected the human physiology.

In retrospect, Snow made several important contributions to the development of epidemiologic thinking:

Now is time to come back to reality. I want to know your opinion about this journey in time. What did you find more interesting ? Would you like to be a med student in that time?(for me that’s will be an yes) Which of the three that I mentioned would you like to work with?Comment below.

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