a time when we’re celebrating the work of physicians across the country, we
thought we’d take a look back at some of the most famous doctors in history,
highlighting their accomplishments and the unending curiosity and tenacity they
showed to change the face of medicine as we know it today.
we celebrate Doctors' Day in 2020, we are keenly aware of the work that you’re
doing to help patients across the country. Know that you’re on Staff Care’s “most
influential” list all year long as you do your part to stem the tide of COVID-19
and other illnesses.
Known as “The Father of Medicine”, Hippocrates lived in Greece
in the 5th Century BC. Many consider him to be the greatest
physician of all time with his early hypothesis that illness had both physical
and rational explanations.
He was far ahead of his time, observing that health was influenced
by diet, breakdowns in bodily processes, and even from changes in the
environment. His motto, “do no harm
” is still part of our lexicon today.Joseph Lister (1827-1912)
Believe it or not, the use of
antiseptics during surgeries was not fully in practice until Joseph Lister
recognized that pathogens were a danger to patients. In the 19th
century, physicians rarely even washed their hands until Lister came on the
During his career, he
successfully introduced carbolic acid
(now known as phenol) during surgical procedures, saving many lives against the
dangers surrounding the introduction of internal pathogens that later caused
postoperative infections. You may already know his name, as Listerine, a
popular antiseptic mouthwash, can be found in many people’s medicine cabinets
As the first woman in the U.S. to become a medical doctor,
Elizabeth Blackwell initially thought of a career in medicine when a female
friend suffering from a terminal illness remarked that she would have fared
better if she had had a female physician. Blackwell was accepted to Geneva
Medical College in 1847, but her acceptance was looked upon by her fellow
students as an administrative joke. She experienced the stigmas of
discrimination throughout her studies but was still awarded a medical degree,
ranking first in her class. Even then, she was still ostracized by some of her peers
and even her patients.
However, her tenacity pioneered the education of women in medicine,
and she eventually opened her own medical college for women. In addition, as
the first woman to be admitted to the British Medical Register, she had the
right to practice medicine in both the U.K. and the United States. Edward Jenner (1749-1823)
As we strive towards a vaccine for COVID-19 and other illnesses, we should
think of Edward Jenner who created the first vaccine against smallpox. While
his methods were crude by today’s standards, he is often referred to as the
Father of Immunology for his contributions to the field.
He is said to have taken fluid from a cowpox blister
and scratched it into the skin of an 8-year old boy, James Phipps. The boy did
develop a blister on the spot, but soon recovered, giving rise to Jenner’s work
in the area of immunology and immunizations. He followed by inoculating the
young boy with smallpox matter and found that no disease formed. Hence, his work was a success. To this day,
his vaccine remains the only effective preventative treatment against smallpox
disease. Alexander Fleming (1881-1955)
While Alexander Fleming is best known for creating the antibiotic penicillin, a
drug that some believe has saved upwards of 200,000,000 lives, his early days
as a scientist are equally important to his contributions.
When Fleming was a soldier in World War 1, he soon
realized that the antiseptic agents being used to treat soldiers’ wounds and
prevent infection were themselves actually killing more soldiers than
infections. In fact, they were lowering the patient’s own nature resistance to
infection by killing white blood cells.
When he returned from the war in 1919, he began
research at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. While there, he took
secretions from inside the nose of a patient suffering from a head cold. He
cultured the secretions to grow any bacteria that happened to be present.
In the secretions, he discovered a new bacterium he
called Micrococcus lysodeikticus
, now called M luteus
A few days later, when he himself was suffering from a head cold, a drop of
mucus fell from his nose onto the culture. The bacteria on which it fell were
almost completely destroyed.
Fleming soon discovered that the common factor in bodily
fluids was an enzyme he named lysosome that seemed to destroy certain microbes,
making them harmless to people. While lysozyme has limited antimicrobial benefits
today, it is still used as a food and wine preservative. It is also used in
medicines, particularly in Asia, where it can be found in treatments for head
colds, throat infections and even athlete’s foot. Jonas Salk (1914-1995)
Jonas Salk saw firsthand what the devastation of poliomyelitis (polio) can do
as he was a child when the illness was rapidly spreading amongst many of his
peers. In addition, he also lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic, making it
easy to understand how these events helped shaped his desire to go into
In 1947, Salk began conducting research on polio
while at the University of Pittsburgh. In a few short years, he had determined
that there were three distinct types of polio viruses that led him to develop a
“killed” version of the virus he could then test.
Preliminary testing began in 1952, with the vaccine
given mostly to children. In the following years, national vaccinations began,
making it one of the biggest clinical trials in the history of medicine. Salk
even administered the experimental vaccine to himself, his wife and sons. When
the results proved successful, the vaccine was approved for general use in 1955.
Part of Today’s Physician Heroes
we were recounting the amazing contributions of physicians over time, it was
hard not to notice how they each took the important work of their predecessors
and used it to push further into new therapies and lifesaving treatments. As
today’s first line of defense for our country, we thank you for taking your
skills to the next level to treat patients across the country.
you for all the work you do year-round. The nation will get through this current
crisis, but we are confident that you will be there going forward with a
helping hand, a kind heart and the professionalism that goes with your work as
this National Doctors' Day 2020, please take a moment to think of all the
contributions you yourself are giving. Your patients recognize it and so does
the team at Staff Care. We’re Here to Help
If you are interested in Rapid Response positions,
Staff Care can help you find the perfect location to help. To express interest,
please complete the form on this page
One of our recruiters will contact you to discuss options.
more information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, visit AMN’s COVID-19 Emergency Response site
Contributor: Debra Wood