'There is a danger that those who changed the world of medicine for the better are becoming forgotten'.
In an age of immediacy, where celebrity is everything and fictional characters are treated like real-life friends, Health Editor Madeleine Brindley asks whether we are in danger of failing to recognise the pioneers of modern healthcare THEY are the pioneers of modern medicine and nursing, but it appears the names of the great and good who helped to shape the way patients are treated every day in the NHS are being lost under the tide of television medical dramas. Fictional characters, such as the medical heartthrobs Dr Kildare and Dr Doug Ross, are more recognisable than the likes of Joseph Lister and Mary Seacole. Even Dr Watson, the slightly mysterious sidekick to Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, is more identifiable than Edward Jenner or even Sir Alexander Fleming.
Perhaps more worrying is the notion that we have no real modern heroes to look up to, or aspire to be, outside the realm of celebrity.
Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said, "It is the need for heroes and heroines today that concerns me. The challenges we face today are very different but possibly as great as they were in the 19th century.
"We need to encourage our children to see healthcare as an inspiring career and also to ensure there are adequate resources for teaching science and, for that matter, history within schools."
And Dr John Gallacher, a reader in epidemiology at Cardiff University and the Wales lead for the UK Biobank, said, "Our history agenda isn't very science orientated and doesn't tend to go beyond Darwin, so it's no surprise that people haven't heard of Jenner or Lister. Although Florence Nightingale makes a good story so is likely to be included.
"It is fundamental that these figures are included and known about - we want to encourage a new generation of scientists and the only way to do that is to display their achievements in a very creative way.
"Their stories are not just about the end products but the struggle they go through, fighting against the establishment, against poor resources and against ignorance to make progress - that's the drama."
Research conducted by health insurer BCWA has found that two thirds of people in Wales - the highest figure in the UK - are able to correctly identify Watson in strong contrast to such important British healthcare figures as Fleming, Lister and even nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale.
The findings suggest that, despite discovering penicillin, inventing sterile surgery and pioneering modern nursing respectively, an appreciation of their advances is fast becoming forgotten.
One in five said they had never heard of Fleming and a staggering - if not worrying - 14% admitted to having no knowledge of Florence Nightingale.
Awareness of Mary Seacole was even lower and anecdotal evidence from some senior nursing figures in Wales suggests that schoolchildren are unaware of the nation's own Crimea heroine Betsi Cadwaladr, above.
But, when it comes to knowledge about fictional medical figures, there appears to be far more certainty - more than four in 10 people in Wales were able to correctly identify all six characters from the list of fictional medical figures which included Kelsey Grammer's TV psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane, the aforementioned Dr Ross and Nurse Duffy, the stalwart of Casualty.
Paul Lewis, BCWA spokesman for Wales, said, "This nation owes people like Sir Alexander Fleming and Joseph Lister a huge debt of gratitude, and there is a danger that those who changed the world of medicine for the better are becoming forgotten. Smallpox, for example, had a dramatic impact on the entire world, and was responsible for an estimated 500 million deaths in the 20th century alone. The fact we are more aware of Frasier and Dr Kildare than Edward Jenner, the first doctor to introduce the smallpox vaccine, is unfortunately a sad reflection on how TV has become such an integral part of our lives."
Ms Donnelly said, "There are many nursing heroines and alongside Florence Nightingale the people of Wales can take pride in Betsi Cadwaladr who nursed with her and Mary Seacole during the Crimean War. "I am disappointed but not surprised by the survey results. History has always been slow to remember women and today's celebrity culture is more likely to focus on glitz and glamour than actual achievements. "Shows like Casualty are more likely to inform public opinion about health than school history lessons and they can sometimes be very useful in raising awareness of health problems." And Dr Gallacher added, "We have got very, very cleverly designed and produced hospital dramas that are very gripping, whereas real life isn't that gripping. "We live our lives far too vicariously - we need to get back to people who are real and help us, rather than those who entertain us.": Real life health pioneers:Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955)
A SCOTTISH bacteriologist and Nobel Prize winner, best known for his discovery of penicillin.
In 1928, while studying influenza, Fleming noticed that mould had developed accidentally on a set of culture dishes being used to grow the staphylococci germ.
The mould had created a bacteria-free circle around itself. Fleming experimented further and named the active substance penicillin.
But it was two other scientists Australian Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, a refugee from Nazi Germany who developed penicillin further so that it could be produced as a drug.
Florence Nightingale (1829-1910)
FAMOUS for her work in the military hospitals of the Crimea, Nightingale established nursing as a respectable profession for women.
War Minister Sidney Herbert asked Nightingale to oversee a team of nurses in the military hospitals in Turkey. She arrived in November 1854, and, with her nurses, greatly improved the conditions and substantially reduced the mortality rate
In 1860 she established the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St Thomas Hospital in London. Once the nurses were trained, they were sent to hospitals all over Britain, where they introduced the ideas they had learnt, and established nursing training on the Nightingale model
Joseph Lister (1827-1912)
ONE of the most important names in the history of surgery, he invented antiseptic surgery.
Listers other innovations included improved ligatures (which, because of disinfection, could be fully embedded in the wound, without worry about infection, and therefore did not need to hang out of the wound as it healed) and the introduction to Britain of drainage tubes, which he used in an operation on Queen Victoria in his role as Surgeon in Ordinary to the monarch.
Edward Jenner (1749-1823)
THE pioneer of smallpox vaccination and the father of immunology.
In 1796 he carried out his now famous experiment on eight-year-old James Phipps. Jenner inserted pus taken from a cowpox pustule and inserted it into an incision on the boy's arm.
He was testing his theory, drawn from the folklore of the countryside, that milkmaids who suffered the mild disease of cowpox never contracted smallpox, one of the greatest killers of the period, particularly among children.
Mary Seacole (1805-1881)
A PIONEERING nurse and heroine of the Crimean War, who as a woman of mixed race overcame a double prejudice.
Born Mary Jane Grant, in Jamaica, she learned her nursing skills from her mother who kept a boarding house for invalid soldiers.
In 1854 Seacole travelled to England and applied to the War Office to be sent as an army nurse to the Crimea. She was refused.
She funded her own trip and she established the British Hotel near Balaclava to provide a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers.
She also visited the battlefield, sometimes under fire, to nurse the wounded, and became known as Mother Seacole.
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917)
A PIONEERING physician and political campaigner, she was the first Englishwoman to qualify as a doctor. After school she was expected to marry well and live the life of a lady. but meetings with the feminist Emily Davies and Elizabeth Blackwell, the first American female physician, convinced her that she should become a doctor.: FROM PAGE 23: Fictional doctors and nurses:Dr Watson THE loyal sidekick and friend of the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. His full name was Dr John Hamish Watson and he shared lodgings with Holmes at 221b Baker Street. Holmes said of Watson, "It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light."
DR JAMES KILDARE was a fictional character, the primary character in a series of American theatrical films in the late 1930s and early 1940s, an early 1950s radio series, a 1960s television series of the same name and a comic book based on the TV show.
The character was invented by the author Frederick Schiller Faust (aka Max Brand).
The television series featured Richard Chamberlain as the dashing Dr Kildare who worked in a busy metropolitan hospital, Blair General.
Dr Frasier Crane
DR FRASIER WINSLOW CRANE is a fictional psychiatrist in the American television sitcoms Frasier and Cheers.
The character was played by Kelsey Grammer for 20 years.
Lisa 'Duffy' Duffin
THE Casualty staff nurse played by Cathy Shipton who was a stalwart in the BBC's long-running Saturday night accident and emergency drama.
Regarded as the mother of A&E she was both caring when needed but not afraid to be strict when necessary. Dr Doug Ross THE original heartthrob doctor in the American drama ER. Played by George Clooney, Dr Ross was a dedicated paediatrician who pushed the limits of acceptable medical behaviour and a notorious womaniser. Dr Gregory House A FICTIONAL character and protagonist of the Fox medical drama House. Played by Hugh Laurie, Dr House is a maverick medical genius who heads a team of diagnosticians at the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.
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|Publication:||Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Dec 3, 2007|
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