Medicine is a vast field, covering most fields of human health and wellbeing. Historically, medical sciences have been dominated by Western cultures; more recently, a growing number of countries around the world have established their own traditions in the area of healing. Most modern medicines and health care systems are based on a scientific model that grew out of the work of ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who developed the Hippocratic Oath for physicians and who categorised illnesses into acute, chronic and endemic diseases (which can be further subdivided into paroxysm, crisis, relapse and resolution). His work helped to replace prehistoric beliefs in herbalism, the Greek “four humours” and other such notions with a more scientific approach to the study of disease, including its observable symptoms, stages of development and the use of terms such as exacerbation, remission and recovery.
A medical student or doctor must complete a long period of training to become qualified as a physician. The exact nature of this training varies around the world, but most systems involve some combination of academic studies at a medical school, practical clinical experience and supervised internships or residencies. Medical students and doctors may also participate in research, with the aim of advancing knowledge about diseases or treatments.
Modern medicine is carried out in health care systems, with legal, credentialing and financing frameworks set by individual governments. The science of medical anthropology is concerned with the ways in which culture and society organize or impact the practice of medicine.
Some common medical specialities include allergy, AIDS and asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, endocrinology, infectious diseases, neurology and oncology. A wide range of drugs are used to treat these conditions and other diseases, and many have side effects.
Other areas of medicine include public health, geriatrics and psychiatry. Public health focuses on threats to the overall health of a population based on population health analysis, while geriatrics deals with diseases and disorders of old age, and psychiatry is the study of mental illness, including depression, psychoses and schizophrenia.
The AIDS epidemic has led to the development of a number of new medical fields, such as HIV/AIDS pharmacology, which is concerned with how medications interact with the body’s immune system and how they can be administered most effectively. Another field is aerospace medicine, which relates to medical problems associated with flying and space travel. More than 47 million people are living with AIDS and HIV today, but there are now effective treatments that can prevent the virus from progressing to full-blown disease and reduce symptoms. Those with allergic disorders, such as asthma or hay fever, are treated with antihistamines, corticosteroids and a variety of other drugs. Occupational medicine aims to ensure the highest levels of health and safety for workers in the workplace. For example, a respiratory condition like bronchitis can be prevented by immunization, and exposure to harmful chemicals can be controlled with respirators. A wide variety of other medical conditions are also covered by occupational medicine, from stress to skin disorders.