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Arch Hellen Med, 32(6), November-December 2015, 789-793


From Hippocrates to George N. Papanicolaou
A medical journey in time

F.A. Tzavella,1 G.J. Tolis2
1Department of Nursing, University of the Peloponnese, Sparta
2National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece

It is a truism that Ancient Greece has influenced the Western World, indeed the whole world, in more ways than one. The contributions of the ancient Greeks across the entire spectrum of human activity, be it science, technology, art or literature, cannot be overestimated. This essay focuses on the métier that the medical doctor of today serves daily through teaching, laboratory and clinical research or practice; namely, medicine and the related sciences. This, inevitably, will bring to mind the Hippocratic Oath, our constitutional Charter of Ethics, attributed to Hippocrates, the most outstanding figure in the history of Western medicine. It will also remind us of the Corpus Hippocraticum, a collection of more than sixty medical treatises carried down to us from antiquity under the name of Hippocrates, but most probably produced largely by his disciples and followers between the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. This Corpus laid the foundations for the scientific analysis, development and growth of medicine as it is known today. Modern Greece, however, may also in her own right lay claim to being a true heir to the legacy left by Hippocrates, a claim most admirably exemplified in the person of Dr George Papanicolaou, the renowned 19th century Greek pioneer in cytology and early cancer detection, and inventor of the "Pap smear". This essay is itself a short journey into the past, drawing special attention to certain important features of the lasting achievements of both Hippocrates and Papanicolaou and the impact they have had on the history of medicine, and identifying a number of questions concerning the ethics of modern medical research.

Key words: Clinical research, Dr George N. Papanicolaou, Ethics, Hippocrates, Hippocratic Oath, Pap test/Pap smear.

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