Tara has taught staff nursing courses and has a master's degree in public health.
A Look into Early Medicine
Fourteen-year-old James wasn't excited as he trudged inside the museum with his grandfather. His grandfather had been planning a trip to the medical history museum so that James could learn more about the evolution of medicine, and how it has developed and grown over time. James has been interested in becoming a physician since he was in kindergarten, but he saw no reason why he needed to study the past to prepare for the future.
His grandfather explained to him how much he will someday appreciate the discoveries and work that his medical forefathers put into the field. Their groundwork and accomplishments over the years led to where we are in medicine today. James was skeptical, but decided he should find out for himself what was so great about the early pioneers of medicine.
The first museum exhibit James and his grandfather stopped to see was about an English physician, William Harvey. James read that William Harvey was born in 1578 and lived until 1657. He became a physician in 1602 when he graduated from the University of Padua. He soon married Elizabeth Browne and began practice at the St. Bartholomew's Hospital in England.
A New Way of Thinking
When Harvey was studying at the University of Padua, his professor had recognized that blood veins had small valves in them, but didn't know the reason. This sparked the curiosity of Harvey, and he began a life-long journey to try to discover more about the circulatory system, which includes the heart, veins, arteries, and how everything worked together. He made many of his discoveries by dissecting animals and studying their blood vessels and hearts. His investigations led him to learn how blood is pumped throughout the body. Harvey discovered that the heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body and it does so in a circular pattern, via the veins and arteries. His discovery allowed him to be the first to learn the purpose of the heartbeat.
Impact on Medicine
Although James found this information on William Harvey very interesting, he didn't see why it was such an important part of history to discover circulation, the flow of blood throughout the body. James' grandfather asked him to think about what medicine might have been like before Dr. Harvey's discovery. James was at a loss. He supposed that no one knew exactly what the blood vessels and heart did. His grandfather told him he was right. Prior to William Harvey's discovery, the medical community thought that the lungs were the organs responsible for moving blood throughout the body, and the heart's main job was to produce heat. It was also thought that blood was produced from food that was digested in the system and used by the tissues until the next time the person ate! Wow! James was amazed that physicians thought this was how the body worked. He wondered how they could help people who had circulatory issues and heart problems. His grandfather pointed out that until Dr. Harvey's discovery, there wasn't much help for those people.
James began to understand how the discoveries made by one person can affect health care and medical science in the future. He realized that what he thought was a basic, simple discovery paved the way for many more studies on how to help people with circulatory and heart problems.
This lesson described the accomplishments of Dr. William Harvey. As a physician, he was instrumental in discovering how the circulatory system works. His discovery involved figuring out the purpose for the heartbeat, how the blood flows throughout the body, and the role of blood vessels. His discovery advanced medicine in ways that allowed physicians to better understand how the human body works and devise ways to help patients who had serious medical problems.
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