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The Team here at Beta-Theta salutes all the doctors who work hard all day and night so that they can make the world a better place to live in.

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Medicine is the science and art of healing. Medicine is a science because it is based on knowledge gained through careful study and experimentation. It is an art because it depends on how skillfully doctors and other medical workers apply this knowledge when dealing with patients.The goals of medicine are to save lives, to relieve suffering, and to maintain the dignity of ill individuals. For this reason, medicine has long been one of the most respected professions. Many thousands of men and women who work in the medical profession spend their lives caring for the sick. When disaster strikes, hospital workers rush emergency aid to the injured. When epidemics threaten, doctors and nurses work to prevent the spread of disease. Researchers continually search for better ways of fighting disease.

Human beings have suffered from illnesses since they first appeared on the earth about 21/2 million years ago. Throughout most of this time, they knew little about how the body works or what causes disease. Treatment was based largely on superstition and guesswork.

Medicine has made tremendous progress in the last several hundred years. Today, it is possible to cure, control, or prevent hundreds of diseases. People live longer than they did in the past as a result of new drugs, machines, and surgical operations. Medical progress in the control of infectious diseases, improvements in health care for mothers and children, and better nutrition, sanitation, and living conditions have given people a longer life expectancy. In 1900, most people did not live past the age of 50. Today, people in the industrial world have an average life span of about 75 years.

As medicine has become more scientific, it has also become more complicated. In the past, doctors cared for patients almost single-handed. Patients received treatment at home for most kinds of illnesses. Today, doctors no longer work by themselves. Instead, they head medical teams made up of nurses, laboratory workers, and many other skilled professionals. The care provided by such teams cannot generally be started at home. As a result health centres, clinics, and hospitals have become the chief centres for medical care.

Medical care is often considered part of the larger field of health care. In addition to medical care, health care includes the services provided by dentists, clinical psychologists, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and other professionals in various fields of physical and mental health. This article deals chiefly with the kind of service provided by doctors and other members of the medical team.

Medicine has made tremendous progress in the last several hundred years. Today, it is possible to cure, control, or prevent hundreds of diseases. People live longer than they did in the past as a result of new drugs, machines, and surgical operations. Medical progress in the control of infectious diseases, improvements in health care for mothers and children, and better nutrition, sanitation, and living conditions have given people a longer life expectancy. In 1900, most people did not live past the age of 50. Today, people in the industrial world have an average life span of about 75 years.

As medicine has become more scientific, it has also become more complicated. In the past, doctors cared for patients almost single-handed. Patients received treatment at home for most kinds of illnesses. Today, doctors no longer work by themselves. Instead, they head medical teams made up of nurses, laboratory workers, and many other skilled professionals. The care provided by such teams cannot generally be started at home. As a result health centres, clinics, and hospitals have become the chief centres for medical care.

Medical care is often considered part of the larger field of health care. In addition to medical care, health care includes the services provided by dentists, clinical psychologists, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and other professionals in various fields of physical and mental health. This article deals chiefly with the kind of service provided by doctors and other members of the medical team.

Improving the quality of medical care

The role of medical organizations. A number of national and international organizations work to improve the quality of medical care. These organizations encourage medical education and research, help standardize medical practice, and enforce codes of professional conduct.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the chief international medical organization. It promotes public health programmes and the exchange of medical knowledge. WHO is especially dedicated to improving the quality of medical care in developing countries.

Most developing countries have a shortage of doctors and hospitals, especially in rural areas. Specially trained personnel assess local health problems, taking into account environment, climate, nutrition, and prevalence of disease. A medical care programme includes the provision of doctors, nurses, visiting clinics, and access to hospital. Local health care assistants are trained to take on many routine tasks. Immunization campaigns, care of pregnant women, and clean water are some of the services needed to help people remain healthy.

Health for All. World Health Organization (WHO) delegates from 134 countries met at Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, in 1978, to discuss the health of the world. Noting the unequal distribution of health care, they declared a goal of Health for All by the year 2000. This aims to achieve a level of health that will permit all people to lead a socially and economically productive life.

Countries as far apart as Bangladesh, Canada, Finland, Thailand, and the United Kingdom are adopting the principles of health for all. Communities take on the responsibilities for their own health care. The Mexican Constitution now guarantees access to health care among the rights of its citizens.

The role of medical research. Progress in medicine depends largely on the work of medical research. Medical researchers strive to increase our knowledge of (1) how the healthy body works; (2) how it is disturbed by disease; and (3) how disease can be prevented or cured. Some medical researchers are doctors, but others are purely research scientists. Much medical research is done in laboratories. But doctors also carry out research by observing groups of patients.

Most medical discoveries provide clues to only part of the solution of a difficult medical problem. As a result, the problem is solved only after years of work by many people. But researchers sometimes make dramatic discoveries. An outstanding example of a dramatic discovery was the development of an effective polio vaccine by the American research scientist Jonas E. Salk in the early 1950's. For more information on medical research, see the article SCIENCE (The history of science).

Medical education. Standards and requirements of medical education are similar in almost every country around the world. Medical studies are very demanding, requiring increasing amounts of material to be learned in a limited time. In addition, students must acquire the skills needed for performing a physical examination and history-taking. After gaining bedside experience, the trainee can apply theoretical knowledge to problems.

All medical students begin their education at university. During five to seven years at the university, they progress through basic sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics), structure and function of the body (anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry), and the disease processes (pathology and microbiology). In the final clinical years, they gain experience seeing patients in hospitals and clinics.

The basic training ends with a year's hospital residency working in different areas. These areas include general medicine and surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, and paediatrics. On graduating, newly qualified doctors are admitted to the national medical register.

Further theoretical and clinical training is usually based in teaching hospitals. Academic staff and advanced facilities enable postgraduates to specialize in any area of medicine. General practitioners undertake at least three years postgraduate training.

Colleges and associations exist which represent the major specialities. They are made up of leading members of the medical profession. These independent bodies maintain standards by administering examinations to candidates who have completed their specialist training. They promote research and act as a forum for the exchange of information and ideas among specialists from all over the world.

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