Medicine, As You Know It, Is Younger Than You Probably Realize

Illustration for article titled Medicine, As You Know It, Is Younger Than You Probably Realize

This week, the bloggers at science-salon The Last Word on Nothing are dishing out stories based on scary issues in medicine. "We won't resort to fear mongering, because we don't have to," the site reads. "Medicine is scary enough as it is."

Above: Danse macabre by Michael Wolgemut / Public Domain

Case in point: The first installment in the series, by Richard Panek, centers on his personal experience with a scary, intermittent fever, and a surprising realization about modern medicine – namely, that it's a lot younger than most people realize. It begins:

The doctor was sitting in a chair next to the window, gazing out. His features were grim. I watched him from my hospital bed, trying to discern meaning in his own effort to discern meaning in my symptoms. Silence. Finally, he spoke: "Medicine is an art, not a science."

Screw you, bub. I'm the writer here. You're the empiricist. So let's go: What's the diagnosis?

By then I had been running a fever for over a week. Every day it spiked, and every night it broke, and every morning it returned, rising throughout the day until, around midnight, it reached 103 or higher. Once I realized I couldn't shake the fever, I had called my doctor, who turned out to be on vacation. So I went to see her partner. This was on a Tuesday.


Read the rest at LWON.

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As a medical student, I'm still disappointed with some aspects of the field. Some physicians (particularly older ones) scoff at evidence-based medicine and cling to their experience and intuition as guidance (which are of course plagued with bias and falsehoods). Medical education spends far too much time testing information that could be easily looked up on the internet rather than evaluating students' reasoning skills. And there is so much potential for electronic medical records and healthcare software to assist in the management in patients, but instead many hospitals use outdated, flawed computer programs (I've even been in hospitals THAT CONTINUE TO USE PAPER CHARTS). We've come a long way, yes, but we would be even more advanced if medicine didn't resist cultural, technological, and of course, financial, change.