The History of Medical Communication

23 Feb


Medical Communication broadly includes how medical knowledge is shared and circulated among different societal segments (eg., the public, media, policy makers, and the medical community) on a variety of levels (personal/micro, community/meso, social/macro, and international). Medical Communication is a specialized area in medicine within science communication, which is currently enjoying national and international attention.

BUT, Medical Communication is not a new science. It has been used since medieval times ( at least ) to share medical knowledge and influence public health behaviour.

Hieronymus Fracastorius (Girolamo Fracastoro), born in 1478 near Venice was a contemporary and friend of Copernicus. As a doctor, he’s considered one of the founding fathers of the modern medicine: He hypothesized that infections are caused by tiny particles (spores), with the ability to multiply inside the organism and to infect through the breath and different other forms of transmission.

The first well-recorded European outbreak of what is now known as syphilis occurred in 1494 when it broke out among French troops besieging Naples. In the year 1521, Fracastoro wrote a few letters to Cardinal Bembo, describing the new illness. The illness had apparently appeared in Europe after discovery of America and allegedly imported from the new world ( The Columbian Exchange theory)

In August of 1530 he published in Verona an epic poem in three volumes about it. In this poem is narrated the history of Sifilo, a young shepherd who offended Apollo, God of the sun, that punished him with a terrible illness that irremediably destroys the beauty. He also published an essay, entitled “Hieronymi Fracastorii Syphilidis sive de morbo gallico“, that results to be a scientific monograph, compiled for the Doctors; where the pathology is described in a detailed way, in its symptomatology, diagnosis and therapy. He recommended the use of mercury and guaiac wood for treating Syphilis.

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The above ” Medical Communication” shows the shepherd Sifilo/Syphilus and the hunter Ilceus being warned against yielding to temptation with the danger of infection with syphilis.Engraving by Jan Sadeler I after Christoph Schwartz, 1588/1595.Image reproduced from Wellcome under Creative commons license.

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Posted by on February 23, 2009 in Creative Commons, History


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