Medicine is ever-evolving on a daily basis. Keeping track of the changes can be an almost-full-time job. Stacker looked at a number of medical journals and media sources to discover the biggest breakthroughs the year you were born, from 1921 to the current day.
From diseases that have been around for decades, such as diabetes and the flu, to cutting-edge tools like artificial intelligence and 3D printing, explore how medical and scientific professionals continually conduct research and clinical trials to improve the lives of patients. Sometimes advances aren’t immediately adopted, as with the Pap smear—that wasn’t integrated into women’s health care for 16 years after it was invented. But other times the path from laboratory to everyday use is much more abbreviated, like with insulin, which was used to treat diabetes only a year after it was discovered.
Another recurring theme in medical history is the repurposing of medicines that have worked for one disease in the past, to see how they’ll work with another. A number of drugs and vaccines are being re-explored to manage COVID-19. Not all the heroes of medical research come from a traditional background—one was an electric engineer who worked for a major record label. Some were recognized with the highest honors, but others still have little visibility decades after their death. Funding for the research behind the breakthroughs is always a consideration—sometimes it comes from foundations and government entities, but other times via donations from individuals and enterprises.
The dark side of medical history shown here includes unethical behavior by researchers in the past, which explains why some in the Black community aren’t exactly early adopters when it comes to clinical trials and new treatment options.
Advances noted here focus not only on the body, but also the mind. Explore this slideshow to see all the ways that health care has changed over the past century.
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