HIST209 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Medical History

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HIST 209 – Week One Notes
What is one of the major misconceptions in healthcare?
-Medicine (simple getting rid of disease) vs. Healing (can encompass all
dimensions of health on a broader scale)
Brief History:
-2000 BC – Eat root - 1000 BC – Eat root + Say prayer
-1850 AD – Drink potion - 1930 – Swallow pill
-1970 – Take antibiotic - 2000 – Antibiotic is artificial + possibility of
Antibiotic Resistance, so eat root (full circle… how ironic!)
(Gap b/w 1000 BC and 1850 AD b/c nothing considered “scientifically valid” – it’s
all pretty subjective)
How do history and science interact?
-“Medical history, like medical practice and medical science, is about
questions and answers, evidence and interpretation”
-“History invites students to ponder why things came to be as they are, and
how they change”
-Both acknowledge limitations and fact that we may not always have enough
sound evidence, but historical approaches can occur over a much longer
period of time
Key Questions for Historians to Ask:
1. Who is engaged in the healing process?
2. When is the event or development occurring? What is the chronology (there
are always preceding contributing factors, present symptoms, and potential
developments in the future)?
3. Where is the event or development happening? What country, region, or
4. What is taking place?
5. Why is it happening?
6. How is this important for understanding of health, disease, and medicine?
Burnham’s 5 Dramas:
1. The Healer
2. The Sick Person
3. Diseases – Mainly regarding infectious diseases (as opposed to sickness)
4. Discovering and Communicating Knowledge – Crucial for discoveries to be
communicated and adopted or it was basically useless, however some
discoveries do fall victim to communication barriers
5. Medicine and Health Interacting with Society – Ex. Commodificaiton of
medicine, Idea of health as a fundamental right/governmental responsibility
Prof. says perhaps 2 should precede 1 or that the 2 should at least equate each
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