Modern Medicine: Summary

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         Medicine in the United States over the past forty years has seen more advances than in its entire prior history.  Biomedical research has led to a much better understanding of how the body functions.  This has paved the way for technology to monitor these functions, including now-common tools like the stethoscope, electrocardiograph, and X-ray.  In turn, such devices have educated us about how lifestyles and living conditions impact health, particularly issues like poverty, obesity, smoking, and drug and alcohol use.  Pharmaceuticals allow many diseases to be treated without surgical intervention, and vaccines have eliminated some diseases entirely.  Lastly, health insurance, particularly government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, have expanded health care to millions, fueling the growth of hospitals, medical education, and diagnostic testing.
            But while producing a great leap forward, these changes have come at a steep cost—a very steep cost.  Health care now accounts for 16 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.  In difficult economic times, the skyrocketing costs of health care have pushed medicine into the political arena as competing interests fight for limited resources.  Health care in the 21st century is as much about politics and economics as it is caring and healing.
            Medical advances in northwest Ohio are of two kinds.  There are a few historic “firsts” that the region can claim, such as the first documented successful tubal ligation in 1880.  Some health care professionals developed devices and techniques that impacted the country, including Dr. Allen DeVilbiss and the DeVilbiss atomizer, Conrad Jobst and Jobst elastic stockings, Dr. Elmer McKesson and anesthesiology equipment, and Dr. Lewis Smead and the “Smead stitch” method of surgical closure.  Others brought advances here, like Harry Dachtler and X-ray machines, Dr. Nathan Brown and cardiology, and Dr. Edward Burns and cervical cancer screenings.  Some advances were literally sky-high:  helicopters called Life Flight transported critically ill patients quicker than could be done via ambulance.  Some advances recognized that despite everything, there are times when the best a doctor can do for a patient is provide palliative care that is both human and humane.
            The most significant advancement in medicine in northwest Ohio has been the founding of a medical school.  The Medical College of Ohio—since 2006, the Health Science Campus of The University of Toledo—has trained thousands of health care professionals who now serve patients around the world, and right here in Toledo.