Culture of Medical Science

"Every person has two educations, one which he receives from others, 
and one, more important, which he gives himself
" - Gibbons

Many people think of science as a doctrine about the nature of the universe. It is true that theories are a necessary part of science, but not all by any means. Moreover, theories are subjected to rigorous trial of time, experience and criticism, and are not constant but changing and sometimes changing fast. The man of science has to work hard to keep up-to-date in order to avoid the ghastly consequences of reaching his 'intellectual menopause'. This term was coined by Irvine H. Page (Editorial: Rev. of Modern Medicine, July-Dec., 1963, p 17). It is a phenomenon which begins at the age of 40 and is complete at about 50. If the man/woman has not dropped out by then he/she will continue to be productive until he/she retires. It must be prevented, as it is the most costly waste of scientific manpower.

Science is essentially a systematic way of thinking, combined with practical and theoretic activity. Of all the sciences there is none that is obviously more useful than medicine.

Historically, Egypt occupied a dominent position in the ancient medical world, and the famous Papyrus Ebers (1552 B.C.) is of great importance as a systematic record of medical knowledge of that day. I quote from it -- "To prevent the hair from turning gray, anoint it with the blood of a black calf which has been boiled in oil, or with the fat of a rattlesnake". Another one is for losing hair - "When hair falls out, one remedy is to apply a mixture of six fats, namely those of horse, the hippopotamus, the crocodile, the cat, the snake, and the ibex, and to strengthen it anoint it with the tooth of a donkey crushed in honey".

Hair loss even today is an obsession with many people. Hundreds of remedies are prescribed in the Papyrus Ebers which do not justify a rational approach today, but the ancient record does follow a scientific system, love for detail, and the desire to save humanity from diseases.

Scientific pursuits ask for hard work and perseverance. Even the discovery of a rare seashell by a dedicated beach comber cannot be termed as an accident. The chance of contamination of a staphylococcal culture by a penicillium mould might have been an accident for somebody, but for Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) it was an important clue accounting for the introduction of 'antibiotics' in medicine. Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) has aptly said, "Chance favours only those who are prepared". Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915) known as the "Father of Chemotherapy" had a dream to produce a drug to treat syphilis 'the great killer' of those days.

With the help of a Japanese bacteriologist Sahachiro Hata (1873-1938) the 606th compound was found to be effective, and was named "Salvarsan", meaning the salvation of mankind from syphilis. Then came Hans Selye, with the hypothesis that "stress" is the cause of many diseases, and the concept of 'diseases of adaptaton' came up.

There are scores of ailments which are triggered by tension in the mind. Statistics indicate that two-thirds of patients visiting physicians have symptoms caused or aggravated by stress, like hypertension, toxic goitre, migraine, arthritis, coronary artery disease (CAD) and so on. In this era of 'science explosion' one has to keep alert, and there are no difficulties so great that the student of resolute purpose cannot overcome. 


More by :  Dr. Frank S. K. Barar

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