With Liberty & Health For All

It’s the 4th of July. Time for hot dogs, burgers and beers with friends and family. And fireworks. Don’t forget fireworks. Between the cholesterol, inebriation and explosives it’s a holiday chock full of opportunities to become familiar with our healthcare system, especially the ER.

But what is the 4th of July anyway? Many have forgotten that it’s really Independence Day, the day the founders of this nation published the Declaration of Independence, creating a nation ruled by the people rather than the monarchy of Great Britain. Our nation was new and made many mistakes, the fact that freedom was much longer in coming for some than others being one, but it was a good first step.

In today’s healthcare systems, it’s easy to see all that is wrong from cost to transparency to socio-economic factors and everything in between. But during holidays, we are reminded of the good. What are some events that changed everything we once knew about healthcare and served as the dawn of a new day?

  • Germ Theory and Vaccines – Louis Pasteur did not develop the germ theory, however his advances in the field helped lead to its acceptance across the globe. His work led directly to the process of pasteurization, the development of vaccines for diseases such as anthrax, cholera, TB, smallpox, and many others. His work is part of the foundation of modern biomedical research as it exists today and the number of lives saved as a result of his efforts cannot be overestimated.  Pasteur declared a kind of freedom from bugs. And he changed the world.
  • X-Ray Machines – The development of medical imaging in the late 1800s and early 1900s was a game changer. For the first time doctors could see what was going on inside a living human being. Followed by ultrasound, computed tomography (CT scans) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), the ability to diagnose and treat disease and internal injury improved by leaps and bounds as a result of this advance. 
  • Penicillin – Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming discovered an anti-bacterial mold in his petri dish in 1928. Millions of lives saved over generations. Unfortunately, we need a new Fleming to discover a new anti-biotic because the bugs are evolving to become resistant to even our strongest treatments today.
  • Organ and Stem Cell Transplant – It was a cold December day in Boston when two surgeons completed the first successful kidney transplant in the world. Since that time surgeons have gone on to transplant hearts, lungs and pretty much everything else, up to and including a human face. Stem Cell transplants have transformed the treatment of Leukemia and other diseases around the world.
  • Prosthetic and Implant Advances – Talk about freedom. Prosthetic and implant advances over the last few decades have transformed the lives of an untold number of people who would otherwise have been attached to a machine or been very challenged from a mobility perspective. Now mechanical hearts, pacemakers, bionic prostheses and other advances help people get back to a normal life.
  • Gene Sequencing – Advances in this area have been nothing short of spectacular. The cost of sequencing has dropped from over a million dollars to a minor fraction of that today. Doctors are sequencing cancers to provide targeted treatments that eliminate tumors without harming other areas of the body.     

All these advances have allowed millions of people in the U.S. and around the world to live full and productive lives. These advances will only continue, and likely at a more rapid pace. 

The one common thread running through such advances is tenacity. These researchers failed and failed and failed, but they never gave up. They kept at it until they found a solution to the problem. They never gave up. Neither did the founders of our nation. And look what they gave us. With all the challenges and turmoil we face today as a nation, we still live in the land of the free. We can keep it that way. We just have to not give up.

From all of us at HealthEdge, we hope you have a safe and happy July 4th holiday.

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