The practice of medicine has a rich history that spans several centuries. Since the first use of plants and other items as simple medicines and balms, many men and women have contributed to the advancement of the "healing arts."


  1. Discuss with your counselor the influence that EIGHT of the following people had on the history of medicine:
    • Hippocrates
    • William Harvey
    • Antonie van Leewenhoek
    • Edward Jenner
    • Florence Nightingale
    • Louis Pasteur
    • Gregor Mendel
    • Joseph Lister
    • Robert Koch
    • Daniel Hale Williams
    • Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen
    • Marie and Pierre Curie
    • Walter Reed
    • Karl Landsteiner
    • Alexander Fleming
    • Charles Richard Drew
    • (Helen Raussig
    • James Watson and Francis Crick
    • Jonas Salk
  2. Explain the Hippocratic Oath to your counselor, and compare the original version to a more modern one. Discuss to whom those subscribing to the original version of the oath owe the greatest allegiance.
  3. Discuss the health-care provider–patient relationship with your counselor, and the importance of such a relationship in the delivery of quality care to the patient. Describe the role of confidentiality in this relationship.
  4. Do the following:
    • Describe the roles the following people play in the delivery of health care in your state. (Note: Not all may exist in your state.)
      • Allopathic physician
      • Chiropractor
      • Emergency medical technician
      • Licensed practical/vocational nurse
      • Medical assistant
      • Medical laboratory technologist
      • Nurse-midwife
      • Nurse practitioner
      • Occupational therapist
      • Optometrist
      • Osteopathic physician
      • Pharmacist
      • Physical therapist
      • Physician’s assistant
      • Podiatrist
      • Psychologist
      • Radiologic technologist
      • Registered nurse
      • Respiratory therapist
    • Describe the educational and licensing requirements for five of those in 4a—other than 4a(1)—practicing health care in your state.
  5. Tell what is meant by the term “primary care” with regard to a medical specialty. Briefly describe the types of work done by physicians in the following “core” specialties:
    • Internal medicine*
    • Family practice*
    • Obstetrics/gynecology*
    • Pediatrics*
    • Psychiatry
    • Surgery
    • Describe the additional educational requirements for these specialties.
  6. Do the following:
    • Briefly describe the types of work performed by physicians in FIVE of the following specialties or subspecialties:
      • Allergy/immunology
      • Anesthesiology
      • Cardiology
      • Colon and rectal surgery
      • Dermatology
      • Emergency medicine
      • Endocrinology
      • Gastroenterology
      • Geriatric medicine
      • Hematology/oncology
      • Infectious disease
      • Nephrology
      • Neuro surgery
      • Neurology
      • Nuclear medicine
      • Ophthalmology
      • Orthopedic surgery
      • Otolaryngology/head and neck surgery
      • Pathology
      • Physical medicine and rehabilitation
      • Plastic, reconstructive, and maxillofacial surgery
      • Preventive medicine
      • Radiology
      • Rheumatology
      • Thoracic/cardiothoracic surgery
      • Urology
      • Vascular surgery
    • Describe the additional educational requirements for the five specialties or subspecialties you chose in 6a.
  7. Visit a physician’s office*, preferably one who delivers "primary care.” (This may be that of your counselor.) Discuss the components of a medical history and physical examination (an official BSA health form may be used to guide this discussion), and become familiar with the instruments used.

    Describe the characteristics of a good diagnostic test to screen for disease (e.g., routine blood pressure measurement). Explain briefly why diagnostic tests are not “perfect.”

    Show how to take a blood pressure and a pulse reading.
  8. Do the following:
    • Discuss the roles medical societies, employers, the insurance industry, and the government play in influencing the practice of medicine in the United States.
    • Briefly tell how your state monitors the quality of health care within its borders, and how it provides care to those who do not have health insurance.
  9. Discuss with your counselor the health-care delivery systems in the United States, Sweden, and China.
  10. Serve as a volunteer at a health-related event or facility in your community (e.g., blood drive, “health fair,” blood pressure screening, etc.) approved by your counselor.
* "Primary care" specialties
** If this cannot be arranged, demonstrate to your counselor that you understand the components of a medical history and physical, and discuss the instruments involved.



  • Cowen, David L., and William H. Helfand. Pharmacy: An Illustrated History. Harry N. Abrams, 1990. (A good introduction to the history of medications.)
  • Estes, J. Worth. The Medical Skills of Ancient Egypt. Science History Publications, 1989.
  • Karlen, Arno. Man and Microbes: Disease and Plagues in History and Modern Times. Touchstone Books, 1996.
  • Ludmerer, Kenneth M. Time to Heal: American Medical Education From the Turn of the Century to the Era of Managed Care. Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Lyons, Albert S. and R. Joseph Petrucelli. Medicine: An Illustrated History. Harry N. Abrams, 1978. (Well illustrated, easy to read.)
  • Manjo, Guido. The Healing Hand: Man and Wound in the Ancient World. Harvard University Press, 1975.
  • Risse, Guenter B. Mending Bodies, Saving Souls: A History of Hospitals. Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Rosenberg, Charles E. The Care of Strangers: The Rise of America's Hospital System. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.
  • ------. Explaining Epidemics: And Other Studies in the History of Medicine. Cambridge University Press, 1992.
  • Siraisi, Nancy. Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine: An Introduction to Knowledge and Practice. University of Chicago Press, 1990.
  • Stevens, Rosemary. In Sickness and in Wealth: American Hospitals in the Twentieth Century. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
  • Wangensteen, Owen H. and Sarah D. The Rise of Surgery, from Empiric Craft to Scientific Discipline. University of Minnesota Press, 1978.