The great Greek physician Galen of Pergamon was one of the most influential forces in medical history, with his theories informing the profession for centuries.
Unfortunately, many of Galen’s ideas were wrong.
“For nearly 2,000 years, we were practicing medicine like it was the Stone Age. There was nothing scientific about it,” said Dr. Syed Tasnim Raza, a cardiothoracic surgeon and associate professor of surgery at Columbia University Medical Center.Thankfully, real scientific discovery eventually won out, helping to lead medicine into the cutting-edge field it is today.
Tasnim Raza, who has spent the last decade studying the history of medicine after more than three decades as a heart surgeon in Buffalo, N.Y., will outline those radical changes at the 11th annual S. Amjad Hussain Visiting Lecture in the History of Medicine and Surgery Thursday, Oct. 17, at 5 p.m.
The free, public lecture will be held in Health Education Building Room 110 on Health Science Campus. RSVPs are requested; email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 419.383.6300.
One of Galen’s primary mistakes was assuming the anatomy of animals he dissected was wholly applicable to humans. For 1,300 years, no one dared question him.
“The thinking was, ‘If Galen said it, it has to be true,’” said Tasnim Raza. “We need to have the strength to challenge conventional wisdom, dogma and current thinking to improve and continue to change.”
The S. Amjad Hussain Visiting Lecture in the History of Medicine and Surgery was created in honor of Hussain, professor emeritus of cardiovascular surgery and humanities, a former member of the UToledo Board of Trustees, and columnist for The Blade.
“Dr. Tasnim Raza has had a deep interest in the history of medicine and has just finished a book manuscript on the history of heart surgery. He is a man who is well-versed in not only the subject of surgery, but also in the arts and humanities,” Hussain said. “The study of the history of medicine is important because it shows us the distance we have covered and the path we have traversed to reach the present. History being a continuum, we cannot chart a future unless we know the past.”
In part, the lecture series helped further inspire Tasnim Raza’s interest in the history of medicine after he came to Toledo in 2013 to hear author Wendy Moore speak about her biography of the 18th-century Scottish physician Dr. John Hunter.
Tasnim Raza’s sister also has presented the Hussain lecture. Dr. Azra Raza, a well-known oncologist and cancer researcher, and Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center, visited Toledo in 2017.
Azra Raza will join Tasnim Raza in Toledo to kick off a book tour for her forthcoming title, “The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last.”