As a career


The rod of Asclepius, symbol of medicine. Medicine is the science and "art" of maintaining and/or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of patients.

History of Medicine
Medicine has been around since the dawn of mankind in one form or another. People have always gotten sick or injured and there has always been attempts to treat them. The earliest form of medicine was using plants and animal parts to create remedies. Some of these were very effective and are still used today. Each tribe would know about the healing properties of plants in their area and would have built up knowledge that was passed from generation to generation.
Ancient Civilizations

Advancements in medicine were made in ancient Egypt, China, Persia and India around 3000BC. These included the development of basic surgical tools, some knowledge about the causes of different diseases. The Ancient Greeks and Romans also advanced medical knowledge a lot. Hippocrates is one of the most famous Ancient Greeks, he is known as 'The Father of Medicine'. His oath is used by doctors worldwide today to swear that they will use their medical training ethically. Hippocrates was one of the first to separate religion and medicine. Until then, incantations and religious rituals were used to cure illness which was thought to be caused by evil spirits. He studied anatomy, but his findings were very inaccurate because autopsies were forbidden in Ancient Greece which meant he could only speculate as to the inner workings of the human body.


Medicine stayed roughly the same in Europe until the Renaissance. As part of developments in all areas of science and art, medical practise was vastly improved. For example, Leonardo da Vinci studied the human body by dissecting corpses. His famous notebooks contain many sketches of bones, muscles and ligaments. Although many advancements were made in anatomy and understanding of the causes of disease, not many cures were invented. There were few drugs available at the time, opium was one of the more effective ones they had.
Modern Medicine

In the 19th Century, many improvements were made to laboratory techniques and instruments, thereby improving knowledge of chemistry in The Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci relation to curing disease. Surgeons and doctors began to realise the importance of hygiene and so they started to wash hands before dealing with patients. This led to a much higher recovery rate because many patients had died of infection from lack of hygienic hospitals. In 1859, Charles Darwin published 'The Origin of the Species', a book that laid out the theory of evolution. At the same time Gregor Mendel, was studying hereditary traits in plants and discovered the foundation of what would become genetics. Later, in 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered DNA. Genetics was to become an important area of research, as many diseases could be diagnosed early by studying a person's genes. In 1880, Louis Pasteur created a vaccine against rabies.

The double helix of DNA

There are many different careers in medicine available, covering a wide range of expertise. In this project, I will focus on General Practitioners, Surgeons, Pharmacists and Psychiatrists. Medicine is a very rewarding career and is generally well paid, which makes it very attractive. To get into a Medicine course in a university in Ireland, you need between 570 and 585 points on your Leaving Certificate depending on where you go. Medicine is a five year-long course. It covers the practise of medicine in general, giving a broad knowledge of all specialities. You also must spend a year in a hospital as an internship to learn how to work in a hospital environment. After that you can study the particular field of medicine you are interested in.

General Practitioner
A General Practitioner (or GP) is a person who provides everyday care for people. They outside of hospitals; in clinics usually located in a neighbourhood. A GP is the first person a patient would see if they were feeling ill and they follow the treatment of patients.

A Surgeon is a doctor who deals with treatment that involves cutting the body. Dentists and veterinarians are types of surgeons. Specialities include brain surgeons, cardiac surgeons and eye surgeons. For example, the training route in the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland starts off with the one year internship after completing your medical degree. You then undergo two years of A scalpel, common surgical basic surgical training which gives you a certificate of completion tool. of that training. After that you can either do four years in a residency training program or go straight into six years of higher surgical training. When you have completed that you can be appointed to consultant surgeon. Of course, you can start working as a surgeon before you have completed the 18 years of studies!

Illustration: The RCSI's flowchart of surgical training

A pharmacist is a medical professional who deals with drugs. They compound and dispense medication as well as advising patients and reviewing drugs for safety. Pharmacy is a highly skilled career which demands care and attention to the job at hand. Pharmacy in Trinity College Dublin is a four year course, requiring 560 points on the Leaving Certificate. The course covers chemistry (and pharmaceutical chemistry), biology (and microbiology), physiology and biochemistry. To become a pharmacist, one must then complete one year training with a tutor-pharmacist and then pass The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland License Exam.

Green cross. Pharmacy symbol

Psychiatry is a slightly different area of medicine, because it deals with treating mental illnesses through means other than drugs or surgery (although psychiatric drugs are used). Psychiatrists diagnose patients by observing behaviour, talking to them, giving them intelligence/personality tests or brain scans. Treatment can consist of counselling, change of lifestyle, psychiatric drugs or (with much controversy) electroshock therapy. In order to become a psychiatrist, an honours psychology degree is required. Completion of a recognised postgraduate training programme in clinical psychology is then necessary. To get a place on such a programme you should do further research or studies relevant to psychiatry.

Couch used by famous psychiatrist Sigmund Freud

Some areas of psychiatry are under much controversy. It was commonplace to lock up mentally ill people in 'lunatic asylums' well into the 19th century. In some poorer nations of the world, psychiatric hospitals are very poorly run, bringing up questions regarding human rights. Electroshock therapy, although effective in treating severe cases of depression, is criticised as causing sever memory loss side effects.
Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was a famous psychiatrist who pioneered the techniques of psychoanalysis. He popularised notions such as Freudian slips and dream symbolism. He believed the subconscious mind played an important role in our behaviour. Before he came along, it was believed that you could control all of your thoughts. Freud suggested that repressed memories and thoughts were pushed out of one's mind and into one's subconscious, altering their behaviour and possibly causing problems. Sigmund Freud

I think there are many good career options available in the field of medicine and that each of them is rewarding because it helps improve the lives of others. Medicine is a very study intensive occupation which demands many years of commitment in order to succeed. I might consider a career in medical research as an option, pharmaceutical drug development for example, though it wouldn't be my first choice. I am interested in lines of work other than medicine and would find them more stimulating. I would regard medicine as a very respectable line of work.