The History of Medicine
My topic in the history of medicine is this:
In medical school I had a problem-based learning tutor who had recently retired after being a family doctor in Northern British Columbia for 30 years.
He told us that when he had been in practice for 5 years, he was having lunch with his peers — all young doctors. They began arguing about a new technology they had just learned of, wondering if it would ever prove useful.
They could not agree if ultrasound would ever influence medical practice.
Why is this history? Because medical technology is advancing at exponentially faster rates while humans live at the same speed we have always lived. It is essential, more than ever, to understand the 19th- and 20th-century history of medical practice in order to appreciate how our colleagues, mentors, and patients think.
I have seen patients refuse relatively benign radiation therapy because the now-archaic treatment they received 20 years ago was so painful. As I touched the scars I understood that we are no longer reading medical history in textbooks; we are seeing it on our patient’s bodies.
As an MD in the 21st century I do not have a luxury of ignoring the historical basis for my treatments anymore than I can ignore the rapid changes forcing me to evolve my practice.
We are living in an accelerated history. I grew up off-the-grid in central Idaho and now I work in high-tech in Silicon Valley. I have already jumped one century, I only hope I can keep up with the next.