A Doctor’s Touch

This week, Dr. Sebastian Müller (Ph.D.) discusses the challenging ideas of Dr. Abraham Vergese, a professor at the University of Stanford.

Doctors constitute one of the oldest human profession. Arisen mainly from ancient Greek philosophy as well as religious institutions such as monasteries  in the Western world, this profession has become a very reputable one and is supposedly studied only by the brightest of students. The profession has undergone many transformations over the last centuries and with the advancement of science and technology, doctors now have a great insight into the human body.

Technological advances such as CAT scans, ultrasounds, blood counts and many other have contributed to our understanding of the human body. Such techniques are routinely employed by doctors nowadays and can help diagnoses and have thus become indispensable.

Abraham Verghese, a Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine, challenges these ideas in his latest TED talk as can be seen below.

Whereas technological advances contribute a great deal to the improvement of general human health, they do not necessarily give you always answers and can even be misleading. What if a scan does not show anything?

There are many diseases and conditions that can be unnoticed on many scans and obviously other techniques have to be employed.

This phenomenon is the critique of Abraham Verghese, who argues that nowadays it is often forgotten to use the hand to diagnose a patient, but instead one specialist after another tries to diagnose things in vain without really building up a rapport with the patient. Of course he does not try to judge his colleagues or put them into a bad light, but rather makes a fundamental suggestion to change our way of thinking.

He basically asks what happened to the stethoscope and a proper anamnesis when you consult your doctor.

For example, machines often do not tell us the cause for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Recently, I had problems with my digestive tracks myself. No specialist or gastroenterologist could pinpoint what was wrong, whereas a visceral osteopath could help me after examining my abdomen with his hands.

Technology and scientific advance is great, but sometimes we forget the great knowledge our fathers and grandfathers used to teach. Being a doctor is a difficult job and every doctor tries to help with the best of his/ her abilities. Maybe it is time to rethink and come back to some old approaches?

Watch the talk by Abraham Verghese below and see what you think …

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About Sebastian Müller

Sebastian Müller was born and raised in Leipzig/Germany and moved to England as an adolescent. He is a trained research chemist and geneticist and is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institut Curie in Paris/ France working in cancer research. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and is still actively involved at the university today. He is fluent in English, German and French and has many fortés and interests including science, philosophy, linguistics, history, competitive sports such as rowing, fitness and nutrition. He is a freelance writer also drawing from his experience as an author in peer-reviewed scientific journals. "I love writing and putting my thoughts down on paper. The written word to me is one of the most powerful ways of conveying thoughts and initiating discussions."
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One Response to A Doctor’s Touch

  1. Ryan says:

    I like what he is saying.