Hippocrates - 460 BCE

Hippocrates of Kos was a Greek physician who lived from about 460 B.C. to 375 B.C. At a time when most people attributed sickness to superstition and the wrath of the gods, Hippocrates taught that all forms of illness had a natural cause. He established the first intellectual school devoted to teaching the practice of medicine. For this, he is widely known as the "father of medicine."

Approximately 60 medical documents associated with his name, including the famous Hippocratic oath, have survived to this day. These documents were eventually gathered into a collection known as the Hippocratic Corpus. While Hippocrates may not have written all of them himself, the papers are a reflection of his philosophies. Through Hippocrates' example, medical practice pointed in a new direction, one that would move toward a more rational and scientific view of medicine.

Read more: https://www.livescience.com/62515-hippocrates.html

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1747 - One of the First Clinical Trials

In 1747, Dr. James Lind was working as a surgeon on a ship with sailors who were sick with scurvy. He selected 6 groups of 2 patients each to take part in a study. Each group had to take a different treatment each day (including vinegar, sea water, and citrus fruits) so that Lind could see if any of these treatments helped with the disease symptoms. 

 

The scurvy symptoms (bleeding gums, weakness, joint pain, etc.) of the two patients who ate the citrus fruits began to go away much more quickly than the other groups. Though they didn’t know it at the time, scurvy is cause by severe vitamin C deficiency and the citrus fruits could help both prevent and treat the disease.

Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-37320399

1796 - The Smallpox Vaccine

Smallpox has killed many millions of people throughout its thousands of years of infecting humans. Around the world, from the 1600s and earlier, “variolation” - purposefully inoculating someone with a small amount of pus from a smallpox blister - led to less serious disease and immunity.

In 1796, after hearing tales that dairymaids with cowpox blisters didn’t get smallpox, Edward Jenner inoculated a young boy with pus from a cowpox lesion. A few weeks later, he purposely exposed the boy to smallpox and no disease developed. While today we would have serious concerns about the ethics of his work, Jenner’s writings about his experiments allowed for the expansion of vaccination and the eventual eradication of smallpox. The word “vaccine” comes from “vacca” the Latin word for cow.

Read more: https://www.cdc.gov/smallpox/history/history.html

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1887 - The National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The Marine Hospital Service (MHS) preceded the Public Health Service and was originally formed to provide medical care to sailors. As epidemics like cholera and yellow fever spread, the MHS was directed by Congress to screen people arriving in the U.S. by ship.

 

As the germ theory of disease took hold, a one-room laboratory was established in Staten Island, New York where physicians used microscopes to identify disease and serve the public’s health. By 1891 the “Hygienic Laboratory” moved to Washington, D.C.

Read more: https://history.nih.gov/display/history/A+Short+History+of+the+National+Institutes+of+Health

1906 - The Pure Food and Drug Act

President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Pure Food and Drug Act which sought to regulate product labeling and prohibit interstate transport of unlawful food and drugs.  Food and drug labels were not able to be false or misleading in any particular, and the presence and amount of eleven dangerous ingredients, including alcohol, heroin, and cocaine, had to be listed.

Read more: https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/changes-science-law-and-regulatory-authorities/part-i-1906-food-and-drugs-act-and-its-enforcement

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1910 - The Flexner Report

Financed by a group of physicians, educators, and philanthropists, Abraham Flexner visited every medical school in the United States and Canada to assess their standards of education. His report to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was published as a bulletin of the Carnegie Foundation in 1910.

 

In the aftermath of his report, more than half of all United States medical schools merged or closed by 1935. Medical school curricula became more standardized, lengthened and academically entrenched in science. During this time, standards for hospital care were developed, improving patient care and outcomes. Teaching hospitals emerged and by 1942 provided clinical sites for training in 15 medical and surgical specialties.

 

The report had a major consequence; in its wake, only a handful of medical schools remained open that predominately educated women and African Americans.

Read more: https://thescholarship.ecu.edu/bitstream/handle/10342/3086/Abraham%20Flexner%20black%20medical%20schools.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

1927 - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Founded

Clinical trials for any new drug, device or treatment must be approved by the FDA before they can begin. The FDA also has the final say about whether a new treatment, drug or device can be approved for use. Once phase III clinical trials are completed, the FDA reviews the data and results of all clinical studies and decides if the new treatment is safe and effective enough to be approved for retail sale.

​The FDA also inspects (audits) sites conducting clinical trials, especially if there is reason to think that the site is not following proper procedures. If serious problems are found, the FDA can prevent a site or doctor from doing any further research.

Read more: https://www.fda.gov/