Medicine is the science and practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and
prevention of disease.
Medicine encompasses a variety of health care
practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and
treatment of illness. Contemporary medicine applies biomedical
sciences, biomedical research, genetics, and medical technology to
diagnose, treat, and prevent injury and disease, typically through
pharmaceuticals or surgery, but also through therapies as diverse as
psychotherapy, external splints and traction, medical devices,
biologics, and ionizing radiation, amongst others.
Medicine has existed for thousands of years, during most of which it
was an art (an area of skill and knowledge) frequently having
connections to the religious and philosophical beliefs of local
culture. For example, a medicine man would apply herbs and say prayers
for healing, or an ancient philosopher and physician would apply
bloodletting according to the theories of humorism. In recent
centuries, since the advent of modern science, most medicine has
become a combination of art and science (both basic and applied, under
the umbrella of medical science). While stitching technique for
sutures is an art learned through practice, the knowledge of what
happens at the cellular and molecular level in the tissues being
stitched arises through science.
Prescientific forms of medicine are now known as traditional medicine
and folk medicine. They remain commonly used with or instead of
scientific medicine and are thus called alternative medicine. For
example, evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture is "variable and
inconsistent" for any condition, but is generally safe when done by
an appropriately trained practitioner. In contrast, treatments
outside the bounds of safety and efficacy are termed quackery.
2 Clinical practice
4.1 Basic sciences
4.2.1 Surgical specialty
4.2.2 Internal specialty
4.2.4 Other major specialties
4.3 Interdisciplinary fields
5 Education and legal controls
6 Medical ethics
7.1 Ancient world
7.2 Middle Ages
8 Traditional medicine
9 See also
Medicine (UK: /ˈmɛdsɪn/ ( listen), US:
/ˈmɛdɪsɪn/ ( listen)) is the science and practice of the
diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. The word
"medicine" is derived from
Latin medicus, meaning "a physician".
The Doctor by
Sir Luke Fildes
Sir Luke Fildes (1891)
Medical availability and clinical practice varies across the world due
to regional differences in culture and technology. Modern scientific
medicine is highly developed in the Western world, while in developing
countries such as parts of
Africa or Asia, the population may rely
more heavily on traditional medicine with limited evidence and
efficacy and no required formal training for practitioners. Even in
the developed world however, evidence-based medicine is not
universally used in clinical practice; for example, a 2007 survey of
literature reviews found that about 49% of the interventions lacked
sufficient evidence to support either benefit or harm.
In modern clinical practice, physicians personally assess patients in
order to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease using clinical judgment.
The doctor-patient relationship typically begins an interaction with
an examination of the patient's medical history and medical record,
followed by a medical interview and a physical examination. Basic
diagnostic medical devices (e.g. stethoscope, tongue depressor) are
typically used. After examination for signs and interviewing for
symptoms, the doctor may order medical tests (e.g. blood tests), take
a biopsy, or prescribe pharmaceutical drugs or other therapies.
Differential diagnosis methods help to rule out conditions based on
the information provided. During the encounter, properly informing the
patient of all relevant facts is an important part of the relationship
and the development of trust. The medical encounter is then documented
in the medical record, which is a legal document in many
jurisdictions. Follow-ups may be shorter but follow the same
general procedure, and specialists follow a similar process. The
diagnosis and treatment may take only a few minutes or a few weeks
depending upon the complexity of the issue.
The components of the medical interview and encounter are:
Chief complaint (CC): the reason for the current medical visit. These
are the 'symptoms.' They are in the patient's own words and are
recorded along with the duration of each one. Also called 'chief
concern' or 'presenting complaint'.
History of present illness (HPI): the chronological order of events of
symptoms and further clarification of each symptom. Distinguishable
from history of previous illness, often called past medical history
Medical history comprises HPI and PMH.
Current activity: occupation, hobbies, what the patient actually does.
Medications (Rx): what drugs the patient takes including prescribed,
over-the-counter, and home remedies, as well as alternative and herbal
medicines/herbal remedies. Allergies are also recorded.
Past medical history (PMH/PMHx): concurrent medical problems, past
hospitalizations and operations, injuries, past infectious diseases or
vaccinations, history of known allergies.
Social history (SH): birthplace, residences, marital history, social
and economic status, habits (including diet, medications, tobacco,
Family history (FH): listing of diseases in the family that may impact
the patient. A family tree is sometimes used.
Review of systems (ROS) or systems inquiry: a set of additional
questions to ask, which may be missed on HPI: a general enquiry (have
you noticed any weight loss, change in sleep quality, fevers, lumps
and bumps? etc.), followed by questions on the body's main organ
systems (heart, lungs, digestive tract, urinary tract, etc.).
The physical examination is the examination of the patient for medical
signs of disease, which are objective and observable, in contrast to
symptoms which are volunteered by the patient and not necessarily
objectively observable. The healthcare provider uses the senses of
sight, hearing, touch, and sometimes smell (e.g., in infection,
uremia, diabetic ketoacidosis). Four actions are the basis of physical
examination: inspection, palpation (feel), percussion (tap to
determine resonance characteristics), and auscultation (listen),
generally in that order although auscultation occurs prior to
percussion and palpation for abdominal assessments.
The clinical examination involves the study of:
Vital signs including height, weight, body temperature, blood
pressure, pulse, respiration rate, and hemoglobin oxygen saturation
General appearance of the patient and specific indicators of disease
(nutritional status, presence of jaundice, pallor or clubbing)
Head, eye, ear, nose, and throat (HEENT)
Cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels)
Respiratory (large airways and lungs)
Abdomen and rectum
Genitalia (and pregnancy if the patient is or could be pregnant)
Musculoskeletal (including spine and extremities)
Neurological (consciousness, awareness, brain, vision, cranial nerves,
spinal cord and peripheral nerves)
Psychiatric (orientation, mental state, evidence of abnormal
perception or thought).
It is to likely focus on areas of interest highlighted in the medical
history and may not include everything listed above.
The treatment plan may include ordering additional medical laboratory
tests and medical imaging studies, starting therapy, referral to a
specialist, or watchful observation. Follow-up may be advised.
Depending upon the health insurance plan and the managed care system,
various forms of "utilization review", such as prior authorization of
tests, may place barriers on accessing expensive services.
The medical decision-making (MDM) process involves analysis and
synthesis of all the above data to come up with a list of possible
diagnoses (the differential diagnoses), along with an idea of what
needs to be done to obtain a definitive diagnosis that would explain
the patient's problem.
On subsequent visits, the process may be repeated in an abbreviated
manner to obtain any new history, symptoms, physical findings, and lab
or imaging results or specialist consultations.
Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, fresco by Domenico di
Contemporary medicine is in general conducted within health care
systems. Legal, credentialing and financing frameworks are established
by individual governments, augmented on occasion by international
organizations, such as churches. The characteristics of any given
health care system have significant impact on the way medical care is
From ancient times, Christian emphasis on practical charity gave rise
to the development of systematic nursing and hospitals and the
Catholic Church today remains the largest non-government provider of
medical services in the world. Advanced industrial countries (with
the exception of the United States) and many developing
countries provide medical services through a system of universal
health care that aims to guarantee care for all through a single-payer
health care system, or compulsory private or co-operative health
insurance. This is intended to ensure that the entire population has
access to medical care on the basis of need rather than ability to
pay. Delivery may be via private medical practices or by state-owned
hospitals and clinics, or by charities, most commonly by a combination
of all three.
Most tribal societies provide no guarantee of healthcare for the
population as a whole. In such societies, healthcare is available to
those that can afford to pay for it or have self-insured it (either
directly or as part of an employment contract) or who may be covered
by care financed by the government or tribe directly.
Modern drug ampoules
Transparency of information is another factor defining a delivery
system. Access to information on conditions, treatments, quality, and
pricing greatly affects the choice by patients/consumers and,
therefore, the incentives of medical professionals. While the US
healthcare system has come under fire for lack of openness, new
legislation may encourage greater openness. There is a perceived
tension between the need for transparency on the one hand and such
issues as patient confidentiality and the possible exploitation of
information for commercial gain on the other.
Health care, clinic, hospital, and hospice
Provision of medical care is classified into primary, secondary, and
tertiary care categories.
Nurses in Kokopo, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea
Primary care medical services are provided by physicians, physician
assistants, nurse practitioners, or other health professionals who
have first contact with a patient seeking medical treatment or care.
These occur in physician offices, clinics, nursing homes, schools,
home visits, and other places close to patients. About 90% of medical
visits can be treated by the primary care provider. These include
treatment of acute and chronic illnesses, preventive care and health
education for all ages and both sexes.
Secondary care medical services are provided by medical specialists in
their offices or clinics or at local community hospitals for a patient
referred by a primary care provider who first diagnosed or treated the
patient. Referrals are made for those patients who required the
expertise or procedures performed by specialists. These include both
ambulatory care and inpatient services, emergency rooms, intensive
care medicine, surgery services, physical therapy, labor and delivery,
endoscopy units, diagnostic laboratory and medical imaging services,
hospice centers, etc. Some primary care providers may also take care
of hospitalized patients and deliver babies in a secondary care
Tertiary care medical services are provided by specialist hospitals or
regional centers equipped with diagnostic and treatment facilities not
generally available at local hospitals. These include trauma centers,
burn treatment centers, advanced neonatology unit services, organ
transplants, high-risk pregnancy, radiation oncology, etc.
Modern medical care also depends on information – still delivered in
many health care settings on paper records, but increasingly nowadays
by electronic means.
In low-income countries, modern healthcare is often too expensive for
the average person. International healthcare policy researchers have
advocated that "user fees" be removed in these areas to ensure access,
although even after removal, significant costs and barriers
Separation of prescribing and dispensing
Separation of prescribing and dispensing is a practice in medicine and
pharmacy in which the physician who provides a medical prescription is
independent from the pharmacist who provides the prescription drug. In
Western world there are centuries of tradition for separating
pharmacists from physicians. In Asian countries it is traditional for
physicians to also provide drugs.
February 1918 drawing by
Marguerite Martyn of a visiting nurse in St.
Louis, Missouri, with medicine and babies
Working together as an interdisciplinary team, many highly trained
health professionals besides medical practitioners are involved in the
delivery of modern health care. Examples include: nurses, emergency
medical technicians and paramedics, laboratory scientists,
pharmacists, podiatrists, physiotherapists, respiratory therapists,
speech therapists, occupational therapists, radiographers, dietitians,
and bioengineers, surgeons, surgeon's assistant, surgical
The scope and sciences underpinning human medicine overlap many other
fields. Dentistry, while considered by some a separate discipline from
medicine, is a medical field.
A patient admitted to the hospital is usually under the care of a
specific team based on their main presenting problem, e.g., the
cardiology team, who then may interact with other specialties, e.g.,
surgical, radiology, to help diagnose or treat the main problem or any
Physicians have many specializations and subspecializations into
certain branches of medicine, which are listed below. There are
variations from country to country regarding which specialties certain
subspecialties are in.
The main branches of medicine are:
Basic sciences of medicine; this is what every physician is educated
in, and some return to in biomedical research
Interdisciplinary fields, where different medical specialties are
mixed to function in certain occasions.
Anatomy is the study of the physical structure of organisms. In
contrast to macroscopic or gross anatomy, cytology and histology are
concerned with microscopic structures.
Biochemistry is the study of the chemistry taking place in living
organisms, especially the structure and function of their chemical
Biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of biological
systems by means of the methods of Mechanics.
Biostatistics is the application of statistics to biological fields in
the broadest sense. A knowledge of biostatistics is essential in the
planning, evaluation, and interpretation of medical research. It is
also fundamental to epidemiology and evidence-based medicine.
Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that uses the methods of
physics and physical chemistry to study biological systems.
Cytology is the microscopic study of individual cells.
Louis Pasteur, as portrayed in his laboratory, 1885 by Albert Edelfelt
Embryology is the study of the early development of organisms.
Endocrinology is the study of hormones and their effect throughout the
body of animals.
Epidemiology is the study of the demographics of disease processes,
and includes, but is not limited to, the study of epidemics.
Genetics is the study of genes, and their role in biological
Histology is the study of the structures of biological tissues by
light microscopy, electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry.
Immunology is the study of the immune system, which includes the
innate and adaptive immune system in humans, for example.
Medical physics is the study of the applications of physics principles
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, including protozoa,
bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
Molecular biology is the study of molecular underpinnings of the
process of replication, transcription and translation of the genetic
Neuroscience includes those disciplines of science that are related to
the study of the nervous system. A main focus of neuroscience is the
biology and physiology of the human brain and spinal cord. Some
related clinical specialties include neurology, neurosurgery and
Nutrition science (theoretical focus) and dietetics (practical focus)
is the study of the relationship of food and drink to health and
disease, especially in determining an optimal diet. Medical nutrition
therapy is done by dietitians and is prescribed for diabetes,
cardiovascular diseases, weight and eating disorders, allergies,
malnutrition, and neoplastic diseases.
Pathology as a science
Pathology as a science is the study of disease—the causes, course,
progression and resolution thereof.
Pharmacology is the study of drugs and their actions.
Photobiology is the study of the interactions between non-ionizing
radiation and living organisms.
Physiology is the study of the normal functioning of the body and the
underlying regulatory mechanisms.
Radiobiology is the study of the interactions between ionizing
radiation and living organisms.
Toxicology is the study of hazardous effects of drugs and poisons.
Main article: Medical specialty
In the broadest meaning of "medicine", there are many different
specialties. In the UK, most specialities have their own body or
college, which have its own entrance examination. These are
collectively known as the Royal Colleges, although not all currently
use the term "Royal". The development of a speciality is often driven
by new technology (such as the development of effective anaesthetics)
or ways of working (such as emergency departments); the new specialty
leads to the formation of a unifying body of doctors and the prestige
of administering their own examination.
Within medical circles, specialities usually fit into one of two broad
categories: "Medicine" and "Surgery." "Medicine" refers to the
practice of non-operative medicine, and most of its subspecialties
require preliminary training in Internal Medicine. In the UK, this was
traditionally evidenced by passing the examination for the Membership
Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) or the equivalent college in
Scotland or Ireland. "Surgery" refers to the practice of operative
medicine, and most subspecialties in this area require preliminary
training in General Surgery, which in the UK leads to membership of
the Royal College of
Surgeons of England (MRCS). At present, some
specialties of medicine do not fit easily into either of these
categories, such as radiology, pathology, or anesthesia. Most of these
have branched from one or other of the two camps above; for example
anaesthesia developed first as a faculty of the Royal College of
Surgeons (for which MRCS/FRCS would have been required) before
Royal College of Anaesthetists
Royal College of Anaesthetists and membership of the
college is attained by sitting for the examination of the Fellowship
of the Royal College of Anesthetists (FRCA).
Main article: Surgery
Surgeons in an operating room
Surgery is an ancient medical specialty that uses operative manual and
instrumental techniques on a patient to investigate or treat a
pathological condition such as disease or injury, to help improve
bodily function or appearance or to repair unwanted ruptured areas
(for example, a perforated ear drum).
Surgeons must also manage
pre-operative, post-operative, and potential surgical candidates on
the hospital wards.
Surgery has many sub-specialties, including
general surgery, ophthalmic surgery, cardiovascular surgery,
colorectal surgery, neurosurgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery,
oncologic surgery, orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology, plastic
surgery, podiatric surgery, transplant surgery, trauma surgery,
urology, vascular surgery, and pediatric surgery. In some centers,
anesthesiology is part of the division of surgery (for historical and
logistical reasons), although it is not a surgical discipline. Other
medical specialties may employ surgical procedures, such as
ophthalmology and dermatology, but are not considered surgical
sub-specialties per se.
Surgical training in the U.S. requires a minimum of five years of
residency after medical school. Sub-specialties of surgery often
require seven or more years. In addition, fellowships can last an
additional one to three years. Because post-residency fellowships can
be competitive, many trainees devote two additional years to research.
Thus in some cases surgical training will not finish until more than a
decade after medical school. Furthermore, surgical training can be
very difficult and time-consuming.
Main article: Internal medicine
Internal medicine is the medical specialty dealing with the
prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of adult diseases. According to
some sources, an emphasis on internal structures is implied. In
North America, specialists in internal medicine are commonly called
"internists." Elsewhere, especially in Commonwealth nations, such
specialists are often called physicians. These terms, internist or
physician (in the narrow sense, common outside North America),
generally exclude practitioners of gynecology and obstetrics,
pathology, psychiatry, and especially surgery and its subspecialities.
Because their patients are often seriously ill or require complex
investigations, internists do much of their work in hospitals.
Formerly, many internists were not subspecialized; such general
physicians would see any complex nonsurgical problem; this style of
practice has become much less common. In modern urban practice, most
internists are subspecialists: that is, they generally limit their
medical practice to problems of one organ system or to one particular
area of medical knowledge. For example, gastroenterologists and
nephrologists specialize respectively in diseases of the gut and the
Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations and some other countries, specialist
pediatricians and geriatricians are also described as specialist
physicians (or internists) who have subspecialized by age of patient
rather than by organ system. Elsewhere, especially in North America,
general pediatrics is often a form of primary care.
There are many subspecialities (or subdisciplines) of internal
Critical care medicine
Training in internal medicine (as opposed to surgical training),
varies considerably across the world: see the articles on medical
education and physician for more details. In North America, it
requires at least three years of residency training after medical
school, which can then be followed by a one- to three-year fellowship
in the subspecialties listed above. In general, resident work hours in
medicine are less than those in surgery, averaging about 60 hours per
week in the US. This difference does not apply in the UK where all
doctors are now required by law to work less than 48 hours per week on
Clinical laboratory sciences are the clinical diagnostic services that
apply laboratory techniques to diagnosis and management of patients.
In the United States, these services are supervised by a pathologist.
The personnel that work in these medical laboratory departments are
technically trained staff who do not hold medical degrees, but who
usually hold an undergraduate medical technology degree, who actually
perform the tests, assays, and procedures needed for providing the
specific services. Subspecialties include transfusion medicine,
cellular pathology, clinical chemistry, hematology, clinical
microbiology and clinical immunology.
Pathology as a medical specialty
Pathology as a medical specialty is the branch of medicine that deals
with the study of diseases and the morphologic, physiologic changes
produced by them. As a diagnostic specialty, pathology can be
considered the basis of modern scientific medical knowledge and plays
a large role in evidence-based medicine. Many modern molecular tests
such as flow cytometry, polymerase chain reaction (PCR),
immunohistochemistry, cytogenetics, gene rearrangements studies and
fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) fall within the territory of
Diagnostic radiology is concerned with imaging of the body, e.g. by
x-rays, x-ray computed tomography, ultrasonography, and nuclear
magnetic resonance tomography. Interventional radiologists can access
areas in the body under imaging for an intervention or diagnostic
Nuclear medicine is concerned with studying human organ systems by
administering radiolabelled substances (radiopharmaceuticals) to the
body, which can then be imaged outside the body by a gamma camera or a
PET scanner. Each radiopharmaceutical consists of two parts: a tracer
that is specific for the function under study (e.g., neurotransmitter
pathway, metabolic pathway, blood flow, or other), and a radionuclide
(usually either a gamma-emitter or a positron emitter). There is a
degree of overlap between nuclear medicine and radiology, as evidenced
by the emergence of combined devices such as the PET/CT scanner.
Clinical neurophysiology is concerned with testing the physiology or
function of the central and peripheral aspects of the nervous system.
These kinds of tests can be divided into recordings of: (1)
spontaneous or continuously running electrical activity, or (2)
stimulus evoked responses. Subspecialties include
electroencephalography, electromyography, evoked potential, nerve
conduction study and polysomnography. Sometimes these tests are
performed by techs without a medical degree, but the interpretation of
these tests is done by a medical professional.
Other major specialties
The followings are some major medical specialties that do not directly
fit into any of the above-mentioned groups:
Anesthesiology (also known as anaesthetics): concerned with the
perioperative management of the surgical patient. The
anesthesiologist's role during surgery is to prevent derangement in
the vital organs' (i.e. brain, heart, kidneys) functions and
postoperative pain. Outside of the operating room, the anesthesiology
physician also serves the same function in the labor & delivery
ward, and some are specialized in critical medicine.
Dermatology is concerned with the skin and its diseases. In the UK,
dermatology is a subspecialty of general medicine.
Emergency medicine is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of
acute or life-threatening conditions, including trauma, surgical,
medical, pediatric, and psychiatric emergencies.
Family medicine, family practice, general practice or primary care is,
in many countries, the first port-of-call for patients with
non-emergency medical problems. Family physicians often provide
services across a broad range of settings including office based
practices, emergency room coverage, inpatient care, and nursing home
Gynecologist Michel Akotionga of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Obstetrics and gynecology (often abbreviated as
English) or Obs & Gynae (British English)) are concerned
respectively with childbirth and the female reproductive and
Reproductive medicine and fertility medicine are
generally practiced by gynecological specialists.
Medical genetics is concerned with the diagnosis and management of
Neurology is concerned with diseases of the nervous system. In the UK,
neurology is a subspecialty of general medicine.
Ophthalmology is exclusively concerned with the eye and ocular adnexa,
combining conservative and surgical therapy.
Pediatrics (AE) or paediatrics (BE) is devoted to the care of infants,
children, and adolescents. Like internal medicine, there are many
pediatric subspecialties for specific age ranges, organ systems,
disease classes, and sites of care delivery.
Pharmaceutical medicine is the medical scientific discipline concerned
with the discovery, development, evaluation, registration, monitoring
and medical aspects of marketing of medicines for the benefit of
patients and public health.
Physical medicine and rehabilitation
Physical medicine and rehabilitation (or physiatry) is concerned with
functional improvement after injury, illness, or congenital disorders.
Podiatric medicine is the study of, diagnosis, and medical &
surgical treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle, lower limb, hip
and lower back.
Psychiatry is the branch of medicine concerned with the
bio-psycho-social study of the etiology, diagnosis, treatment and
prevention of cognitive, perceptual, emotional and behavioral
disorders. Related non-medical fields include psychotherapy and
Preventive medicine is the branch of medicine concerned with
Community health or public health is an aspect of health services
concerned with threats to the overall health of a community based on
population health analysis.
Some interdisciplinary sub-specialties of medicine include:
Aerospace medicine deals with medical problems related to flying and
Addiction medicine deals with the treatment of addiction.
Medical ethics deals with ethical and moral principles that apply
values and judgments to the practice of medicine.
Biomedical Engineering is a field dealing with the application of
engineering principles to medical practice.
Clinical pharmacology is concerned with how systems of therapeutics
interact with patients.
Conservation medicine studies the relationship between human and
animal health, and environmental conditions. Also known as ecological
medicine, environmental medicine, or medical geology.
Disaster medicine deals with medical aspects of emergency
preparedness, disaster mitigation and management.
Diving medicine (or hyperbaric medicine) is the prevention and
treatment of diving-related problems.
Evolutionary medicine is a perspective on medicine derived through
applying evolutionary theory.
Forensic medicine deals with medical questions in legal context, such
as determination of the time and cause of death, type of weapon used
to inflict trauma, reconstruction of the facial features using remains
of deceased (skull) thus aiding identification.
Gender-based medicine studies the biological and physiological
differences between the human sexes and how that affects differences
Hospice and Palliative
Medicine is a relatively modern branch of
clinical medicine that deals with pain and symptom relief and
emotional support in patients with terminal illnesses including cancer
and heart failure.
Hospital medicine is the general medical care of hospitalized
patients. Physicians whose primary professional focus is hospital
medicine are called hospitalists in the
United States and Canada. The
term Most Responsible
Physician (MRP) or attending physician is also
used interchangeably to describe this role.
Laser medicine involves the use of lasers in the diagnostics or
treatment of various conditions.
Medical humanities includes the humanities (literature, philosophy,
ethics, history and religion), social science (anthropology, cultural
studies, psychology, sociology), and the arts (literature, theater,
film, and visual arts) and their application to medical education and
Health informatics is a relatively recent field that deal with the
application of computers and information technology to medicine.
Nosology is the classification of diseases for various purposes.
Nosokinetics is the science/subject of measuring and modelling the
process of care in health and social care systems.
Occupational medicine is the provision of health advice to
organizations and individuals to ensure that the highest standards of
health and safety at work can be achieved and maintained.
Pain management (also called pain medicine, or algiatry) is the
medical discipline concerned with the relief of pain.
Pharmacogenomics is a form of individualized medicine.
Podiatric medicine is the study of, diagnosis, and medical treatment
of disorders of the foot, ankle, lower limb, hip and lower back.
Sexual medicine is concerned with diagnosing, assessing and treating
all disorders related to sexuality.
Sports medicine deals with the treatment and prevention and
rehabilitation of sports/exercise injuries such as muscle spasms,
muscle tears, injuries to ligaments (ligament tears or ruptures) and
their repair in athletes, amateur and professional.
Therapeutics is the field, more commonly referenced in earlier periods
of history, of the various remedies that can be used to treat disease
and promote health.
Travel medicine or emporiatrics deals with health problems of
international travelers or travelers across highly different
Tropical medicine deals with the prevention and treatment of tropical
diseases. It is studied separately in temperate climates where those
diseases are quite unfamiliar to medical practitioners and their local
Urgent care focuses on delivery of unscheduled, walk-in care outside
of the hospital emergency department for injuries and illnesses that
are not severe enough to require care in an emergency department. In
some jurisdictions this function is combined with the emergency room.
Veterinary medicine; veterinarians apply similar techniques as
physicians to the care of animals.
Wilderness medicine entails the practice of medicine in the wild,
where conventional medical facilities may not be available.
Many other health science fields, e.g. dietetics
Education and legal controls
Medical education and Medical license
Medical students learning about stitches
Medical education and training varies around the world. It typically
involves entry level education at a university medical school,
followed by a period of supervised practice or internship, or
residency. This can be followed by postgraduate vocational training. A
variety of teaching methods have been employed in medical education,
still itself a focus of active research. In
Canada and the United
States of America, a
Doctor of Medicine
Doctor of Medicine degree, often abbreviated
M.D., or a
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree, often abbreviated as
D.O. and unique to the United States, must be completed in and
delivered from a recognized university.
Since knowledge, techniques, and medical technology continue to evolve
at a rapid rate, many regulatory authorities require continuing
medical education. Medical practitioners upgrade their knowledge in
various ways, including medical journals, seminars, conferences, and
Headquarters of the Organización Médica Colegial de España, which
regulates the medical profession in Spain
In most countries, it is a legal requirement for a medical doctor to
be licensed or registered. In general, this entails a medical degree
from a university and accreditation by a medical board or an
equivalent national organization, which may ask the applicant to pass
exams. This restricts the considerable legal authority of the medical
profession to physicians that are trained and qualified by national
standards. It is also intended as an assurance to patients and as a
safeguard against charlatans that practice inadequate medicine for
personal gain. While the laws generally require medical doctors to be
trained in "evidence based", Western, or
Hippocratic Medicine, they
are not intended to discourage different paradigms of health.
In the European Union, the profession of doctor of medicine is
regulated. A profession is said to be regulated when access and
exercise is subject to the possession of a specific professional
qualification. The regulated professions database contains a list of
regulated professions for doctor of medicine in the EU member states,
EEA countries and Switzerland. This list is covered by the Directive
Doctors who are negligent or intentionally harmful in their care of
patients can face charges of medical malpractice and be subject to
civil, criminal, or professional sanctions.
Main article: Medical ethics
A 12th-century Byzantine manuscript of the
Medical ethics is a system of moral principles that apply values and
judgments to the practice of medicine. As a scholarly discipline,
medical ethics encompasses its practical application in clinical
settings as well as work on its history, philosophy, theology, and
sociology. Six of the values that commonly apply to medical ethics
autonomy - the patient has the right to refuse or choose their
treatment. (Voluntas aegroti suprema lex.)
beneficence - a practitioner should act in the best interest of the
patient. (Salus aegroti suprema lex.)
justice - concerns the distribution of scarce health resources, and
the decision of who gets what treatment (fairness and equality).
non-maleficence - "first, do no harm" (primum non-nocere).
respect for persons - the patient (and the person treating the
patient) have the right to be treated with dignity.
truthfulness and honesty - the concept of informed consent has
increased in importance since the historical events of the Doctors'
Trial of the Nuremberg trials, Tuskegee syphilis experiment, and
Values such as these do not give answers as to how to handle a
particular situation, but provide a useful framework for understanding
conflicts. When moral values are in conflict, the result may be an
ethical dilemma or crisis. Sometimes, no good solution to a dilemma in
medical ethics exists, and occasionally, the values of the medical
community (i.e., the hospital and its staff) conflict with the values
of the individual patient, family, or larger non-medical community.
Conflicts can also arise between health care providers, or among
family members. For example, some argue that the principles of
autonomy and beneficence clash when patients refuse blood
transfusions, considering them life-saving; and truth-telling was not
emphasized to a large extent before the HIV era.
History of medicine
History of medicine and Timeline of medicine and
Statuette of ancient Egyptian physician Imhotep, the first physician
from antiquity known by name.
Prehistoric medicine incorporated plants (herbalism), animal parts,
and minerals. In many cases these materials were used ritually as
magical substances by priests, shamans, or medicine men. Well-known
spiritual systems include animism (the notion of inanimate objects
having spirits), spiritualism (an appeal to gods or communion with
ancestor spirits); shamanism (the vesting of an individual with mystic
powers); and divination (magically obtaining the truth). The field of
medical anthropology examines the ways in which culture and society
are organized around or impacted by issues of health, health care and
Early records on medicine have been discovered from ancient Egyptian
medicine, Babylonian Medicine, Ayurvedic medicine (in the Indian
subcontinent), classical Chinese medicine (predecessor to the modern
traditional Chinese medicine), and ancient Greek medicine and Roman
Imhotep (3rd millennium BC) is the first physician in
history known by name. The oldest Egyptian medical text is the Kahun
Gynaecological Papyrus from around 2000 BCE, which describes
gynaecological diseases. The
Edwin Smith Papyrus
Edwin Smith Papyrus dating back to 1600
BCE is an early work on surgery, while the
Ebers Papyrus dating back
to 1500 BCE is akin to a textbook on medicine.
In China, archaeological evidence of medicine in Chinese dates back to
Bronze Age Shang Dynasty, based on seeds for herbalism and tools
presumed to have been used for surgery. The Huangdi Neijing, the
progenitor of Chinese medicine, is a medical text written beginning in
the 2nd century BCE and compiled in the 3rd century.
In India, the surgeon
Sushruta described numerous surgical operations,
including the earliest forms of plastic surgery.[dubious –
discuss] Earliest records of dedicated hospitals come from
Sri Lanka where evidence of dedicated medicinal treatment
facilities for patients are found.
In Greece, the Greek physician Hippocrates, the "father of modern
medicine", laid the foundation for a rational approach to
Hippocrates introduced the
Hippocratic Oath for physicians,
which is still relevant and in use today, and was the first to
categorize illnesses as acute, chronic, endemic and epidemic, and use
terms such as, "exacerbation, relapse, resolution, crisis, paroxysm,
peak, and convalescence". The Greek physician
Galen was also
one of the greatest surgeons of the ancient world and performed many
audacious operations, including brain and eye surgeries. After the
fall of the
Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire and the onset of the Early Middle
Ages, the Greek tradition of medicine went into decline in Western
Europe, although it continued uninterrupted in the Eastern Roman
Most of our knowledge of ancient
Hebrew medicine during the
1st millennium BC comes from the Torah, i.e. the Five
Books of Moses, which contain various health related laws and rituals.
The Hebrew contribution to the development of modern medicine started
in the Byzantine Era, with the physician Asaph the Jew.
A manuscript of
Al-Risalah al-Dhahabiah by Ali al-Ridha, the eighth
Imam of Shia Muslims. The text says: "Golden dissertation in medicine
which is sent by Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha, peace be upon him, to
After 750 CE, the Muslim world had the works of Hippocrates,
Sushruta translated into Arabic, and Islamic physicians engaged in
some significant medical research. Notable Islamic medical pioneers
include the Persian polymath, Avicenna, who, along with
Hippocrates, has also been called the "father of medicine". He
wrote The Canon of Medicine, considered one of the most famous books
in the history of medicine. Others include Abulcasis,
Avenzoar, Ibn al-Nafis, and Averroes. Rhazes was one
of the first to question the Greek theory of humorism, which
nevertheless remained influential in both medieval Western and
medieval Islamic medicine.
Al-Risalah al-Dhahabiah by Ali
al-Ridha, the eighth Imam of Shia Muslims, is revered as the most
precious Islamic literature in the
Science of Medicine. The
Bimaristan hospitals were an early example of public
Charlemagne decreed that a hospital should be attached to
each cathedral and monastery and the historian Geoffrey Blainey
likened the activities of the
Catholic Church in health care during
the Middle Ages to an early version of a welfare state: "It conducted
hospitals for the old and orphanages for the young; hospices for the
sick of all ages; places for the lepers; and hostels or inns where
pilgrims could buy a cheap bed and meal". It supplied food to the
population during famine and distributed food to the poor. This
welfare system the church funded through collecting taxes on a large
scale and possessing large farmlands and estates. The Benedictine
order was noted for setting up hospitals and infirmaries in their
monasteries, growing medical herbs and becoming the chief medical care
givers of their districts, as at the great Abbey of Cluny. The Church
also established a network of cathedral schools and universities where
medicine was studied. The
Schola Medica Salernitana
Schola Medica Salernitana in Salerno,
looking to the learning of Greek and
Arab physicians, grew to be the
finest medical school in Medieval Europe.
Panorama of Siena's Santa Maria della Scala Hospital, one of Europe's
oldest hospitals. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church
established universities which revived the study of sciences - drawing
on the learning of Greek and
Arab physicians in the study of medicine.
However, the fourteenth and fifteenth century
Black Death devastated
both the Middle East and Europe, and it has even been argued that
Western Europe was generally more effective in recovering from the
pandemic than the Middle East. In the early modern period,
important early figures in medicine and anatomy emerged in Europe,
Gabriele Falloppio and William Harvey.
The major shift in medical thinking was the gradual rejection,
especially during the
Black Death in the 14th and 15th centuries, of
what may be called the 'traditional authority' approach to science and
medicine. This was the notion that because some prominent person in
the past said something must be so, then that was the way it was, and
anything one observed to the contrary was an anomaly (which was
paralleled by a similar shift in European society in general – see
Copernicus's rejection of Ptolemy's theories on astronomy). Physicians
Vesalius improved upon or disproved some of the theories from the
past. The main tomes used both by medicine students and expert
Materia Medica and Pharmacopoeia.
Vesalius was the author of De humani corporis fabrica, an
important book on human anatomy. Bacteria and microorganisms were
first observed with a microscope by
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek in 1676,
initiating the scientific field microbiology. Independently from
Michael Servetus rediscovered the pulmonary circulation,
but this discovery did not reach the public because it was written
down for the first time in the "Manuscript of Paris" in 1546, and
later published in the theological work for which he paid with his
life in 1553. Later this was described by
Renaldus Columbus and Andrea
Herman Boerhaave is sometimes referred to as a "father of
physiology" due to his exemplary teaching in Leiden and textbook
'Institutiones medicae' (1708).
Pierre Fauchard has been called "the
father of modern dentistry".
Paul-Louis Simond injecting a plague vaccine in Karachi, 1898
Veterinary medicine was, for the first time, truly separated from
human medicine in 1761, when the French veterinarian Claude Bourgelat
founded the world's first veterinary school in Lyon, France. Before
this, medical doctors treated both humans and other animals.
Modern scientific biomedical research (where results are testable and
reproducible) began to replace early Western traditions based on
herbalism, the Greek "four humours" and other such pre-modern notions.
The modern era really began with Edward Jenner's discovery of the
smallpox vaccine at the end of the 18th century (inspired by the
method of inoculation earlier practiced in Asia), Robert Koch's
discoveries around 1880 of the transmission of disease by bacteria,
and then the discovery of antibiotics around 1900.
The post-18th century modernity period brought more groundbreaking
researchers from Europe. From
Germany and Austria, doctors Rudolf
Virchow, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen,
Karl Landsteiner and
Otto Loewi made
notable contributions. In the United Kingdom, Alexander Fleming,
Francis Crick and
Florence Nightingale are considered
important. Spanish doctor
Santiago Ramón y Cajal
Santiago Ramón y Cajal is considered the
father of modern neuroscience.
From New Zealand and Australia came Maurice Wilkins, Howard Florey,
and Frank Macfarlane Burnet.
In the United States, William Williams Keen, William Coley, James D.
Watson, Italy (Salvador Luria), Switzerland (Alexandre Yersin), Japan
(Kitasato Shibasaburō), and France (Jean-Martin Charcot, Claude
Bernard, Paul Broca) and others did significant work. Russian Nikolai
Korotkov also did significant work, as did Sir
William Osler and
Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin in September 1928 marks
the start of modern antibiotics.
As science and technology developed, medicine became more reliant upon
medications. Throughout history and in Europe right until the late
18th century, not only animal and plant products were used as
medicine, but also human body parts and fluids. Pharmacology
developed in part from herbalism and some drugs are still derived from
plants (atropine, ephedrine, warfarin, aspirin, digoxin, vinca
alkaloids, taxol, hyoscine, etc.). Vaccines were discovered by
Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur.
The first antibiotic was arsphenamine (Salvarsan) discovered by Paul
Ehrlich in 1908 after he observed that bacteria took up toxic dyes
that human cells did not. The first major class of antibiotics was the
sulfa drugs, derived by German chemists originally from azo dyes.
Pharmacology has become increasingly sophisticated; modern
biotechnology allows drugs targeted towards specific physiological
processes to be developed, sometimes designed for compatibility with
the body to reduce side-effects.
Genomics and knowledge of human
genetics is having some influence on medicine, as the causative genes
of most monogenic genetic disorders have now been identified, and the
development of techniques in molecular biology and genetics are
influencing medical technology, practice and decision-making.
Evidence-based medicine is a contemporary movement to establish the
most effective algorithms of practice (ways of doing things) through
the use of systematic reviews and meta-analysis. The movement is
facilitated by modern global information science, which allows as much
of the available evidence as possible to be collected and analyzed
according to standard protocols that are then disseminated to
healthcare providers. The
Cochrane Collaboration leads this movement.
A 2001 review of 160 Cochrane systematic reviews revealed that,
according to two readers, 21.3% of the reviews concluded insufficient
evidence, 20% concluded evidence of no effect, and 22.5% concluded
Main article: Traditional medicine
Traditional medicine (also known as indigenous or folk medicine)
comprises knowledge systems that developed over generations within
various societies before the introduction of modern medicine. The
Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as "the
sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the
theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures,
whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well
as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical
and mental illness."
In some Asian and African countries, up to 80% of the population
relies on traditional medicine for their primary health care needs.
When adopted outside of its traditional culture, traditional medicine
is often called alternative medicine. Practices known as
traditional medicines include Ayurveda, Siddha medicine, Unani,
ancient Iranian medicine, Irani, Islamic medicine, traditional Chinese
medicine, traditional Korean medicine, acupuncture, Muti, Ifá, and
traditional African medicine.
The WHO notes however that "inappropriate use of traditional medicines
or practices can have negative or dangerous effects" and that "further
research is needed to ascertain the efficacy and safety" of several of
the practices and medicinal plants used by traditional medicine
systems. The line between alternative medicine and quackery is a
Traditional medicine may include formalized aspects of folk medicine,
that is to say longstanding remedies passed on and practised by lay
Folk medicine consists of the healing practices and ideas of
body physiology and health preservation known to some in a culture,
transmitted informally as general knowledge, and practiced or applied
by anyone in the culture having prior experience. Folk medicine
may also be referred to as traditional medicine, alternative medicine,
indigenous medicine, or natural medicine. These terms are often
considered interchangeable, even though some authors may prefer one or
the other because of certain overtones they may be willing to
highlight. In fact, out of these terms perhaps only indigenous
medicine and traditional medicine have the same meaning as folk
medicine, while the others should be understood rather in a modern or
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Outline of medicine
Outline of medicine and Outline of health
List of causes of death by rate
List of disorders
List of important publications in medicine
Lists of diseases
Philosophy of healthcare
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^ National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: What is
Oral and maxillofacial surgery
Allergy / Immunology
Obstetrics and gynaecology
Reproductive endocrinology and infertility
Physical medicine and rehabilitation
Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R)
Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery
Bachelor of Medical Sciences
Master of Medicine
Master of Surgery
Doctor of Medicine
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
History of medicine