A new exhibit explores physician education from ancient Greece to Duke Medicine

Students in a 21st-century gross anatomy class at Duke University Medical Center

Throughout history, certain people have taken responsibility for healing the sick, the wounded, and the suffering. Medical knowledge that was once passed down verbally gradually became more codified in writing and professionalized through apprenticeships and university education. Over the course of centuries, the licensed physician of today emerged.

As the practice of medicine evolved, so too did medical training and education. Certain core subjects like anatomy have been part of the curriculum for over five hundred years. But educational methodologies have advanced from oral tradition to physical autopsy to video instruction and, now, virtual simulation.

But just how different is the training of a Duke medical student today from physician education in, say, Padua in the sixteenth century, or early nineteenth-century American universities?

A new exhibition spanning two Duke libraries traces the history of medical education, from the days of ancient Greece to the founding of Duke University’s School of Medicine. Drawing on a range of materials from the Duke University Medical Center Archives and the History of Medicine Collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the exhibit explores the age-old question every person in need of medical care has asked at some point: What Does Your Doctor Know?

This 12th-century manuscript copy of Theorica Pantegni, or "The Total Art of Medical Theory," was the first comprehensive medical encyclopedia in Latin.

The exhibition, divided between Perkins Library and the Duke Medical Center Library, will be on display April 17 – July 31.

An opening reception will take place Wednesday, April 25, at 4 p.m. in Rubenstein Library’s Biddle Rare Book Room. The event will feature a lecture on medical education by Dr. Edward Buckley, Vice Dean of Medical Education in the Duke School of Medicine. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.

Check out the exhibit online.

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