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Preventive Medicine Physicians


The medical field dates to ancient Greece, when the first great physician Hippocrates introduced his theories about the practice of medicine and the anatomy of the human body. His set of medical ethics continues to influence medical practice, as the Hippocratic oath that he administered to his disciples is still administered to new physicians. His 87 treatises on medicine, known as the "Hippocratic Collection," are believed to be the first authoritative record of early medical theory and practice. Hippocratic physicians believed in the theory that health was maintained by a proper balance of four "humors" in the body: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Greek physician Galen influenced medical thought for more than a thousand years. During the Middle Ages, his works were translated into Arabic and Syriac.

The great civilizations of Egypt, India, and China all developed medical theories of diagnosis and treatment that influenced later cultures of their own countries and those of other countries. For instance, the school of medicine at Alexandria, Egypt, incorporated the theories of the ancient Greeks as well as those of the Egyptians. This great medical school flourished and was influential for several hundred years. The theories and practices of medicine were kept alive almost entirely during the Middle Ages by monks in monasteries, who carefully preserved and copied the medical records of most of the great early civilizations.

Interest in medical research was revived during the Renaissance. Swiss physician Paracelsus publicly burned the writings of Galen and Avicenna (a Persian physicist and philosopher), signifying a break with the past. Concepts of psychology and psychiatry were introduced by Juan Luis Vives, a Spanish humanist and physician.

The 1600s brought about many discoveries and inventions in the medical field. English physician William Harvey discovered that blood, propelled by the pumping action of the heart, circulates through the body. Dutch lens grinder Anton van Leeuwenhoek made instruments that magnified up to 270 times. He also studied blood circulation and composition, and was the first to see bacteria and protozoans.

In the 1700s, Dutch physician Hermann Boerhaave introduced clinical instruction, which entailed teaching at the bedside of patients. Edward Jenner discovered a vaccination against smallpox. Specialization grew rapidly, as did the growth of medical schools, hospitals, and dispensaries. The 1800s saw advances in more precise instruments, such as the stethoscope, the ophthalmoscope, and X-rays. Doctors began to use anesthetics like ether and nitrous oxide and antiseptics. Knowledge of the cell, digestion, metabolism, and the vasomotor system increased.

In the 1900s, discoveries and developments have been the identification of four blood types, the discovery of insulin, development of antibiotics, and immunizations such as the polio vaccine. Technological advances have included the electron microscope, pacemakers, ultrasound, heart-lung machines, dialysis machines, and prostheses, to name only a few. As the field of preventive medicine started to grow, two organizations were founded to establish standards for the field: the American Board of Preventive Medicine, in 1948, and the American College of Preventive Medicine, in 1954.

Preventive medicine continues to help people live longer, healthier lives through treatments and medicines to help reduce and prevent diseases and disorders. As described by the American College of Preventive Medicine, today's preventive medicine physicians are knowledgeable about and skilled in such areas as biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental and occupational medicine, planning and evaluation of health services, management of health care organizations, research into the causes of diseases and injury in population groups, and the practice of prevention in clinical medicine.

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