ISEMPH Presentation: Katherine van Schaik

ISEMPH - Katherine van Schaik, Harvard and University of Zurich

"Only the “necessary things”: the evolution of medical education alongside epidemiological shifts in burden of disease"
Katherine van Schaik
Harvard Medical School, Department of the Classics, Institute for Evolutionary Medicine 
Harvard University, University of Zurich 
Two thousand years ago, a Greek physician proclaimed that he would teach medical students only the “necessary things”. What were those necessary things then, and what are they now? This presentation will suggest ways in which shifts in epidemiological the burden of disease over the past three thousand years have affected the ways doctors have thought about and taught medicine over time. Drawing on evidence from the fields of evolutionary medicine and paleopathology, and on the evidence from Greek, Latin, and Arabic primary source material, the paper will explore the roots of such epidemiological shifts in the burden of disease, as well as the origins of the western medical education system. Changes in burden of disease in Europe and the Middle East will be contextualized through the perspective of disease evolution across time. It will be argued that the evolution of disease and disease patterns – the occurrence and frequency of diseases, and their varying manifestations – directly influenced and continue to influence medical curricula and the ways in which physicians and their students define, diagnose, and treat disease.