A considerable amount of water has passed under the bridge since I was an intern in 1969-1970. There have been remarkable advances and significant improvements in mortality and morbidity for a variety of diseases. Listed below are, in my opinion, the 10 most noteworthy developments in clinical medicine that have occurred since I was in training.
- 1.Myocardial infarction (MI): When I was in training, the 30-day mortality rate for patients with an MI approached 30%, and many of these individuals were middle-aged. Today, the 30-day mortality rate is approximately 6%-7% and patients are 20 years older with their first MI. Post-MI complications have also been strikingly reduced. Reperfusion therapy, statins, management of heart failure, and lifestyle changes in the US population are major contributors to this remarkable improvement in MI mortality.1
Epidemiology, clinical features, and prognosis of acute myocardial infarction in the elderly.Am J Geriatr Cardiol. 2006; 15: 7-11
- Rich MW.
- 2.HIV: In the early 1990s, HIV/AIDS was a horrible and universally fatal scourge affecting many young and productive individuals. The recognition of its causation and the subsequent development of effective therapy is truly one of the most important milestones in 20th century medicine. A disease that was always universally fatal and associated with cachexia, severe pain, and suffering has now become a chronic and tolerable illness if patients are compliant with their medical regimen.2
Four decades of HIV/AIDS - much accomplished, much to do.N Engl J Med. 2020; 383: 1-4
- Fauci AS
- Lane HC.
- 3.Intensive care unit (ICU) care: When I was in training, the coronary care and medical-surgical intensive care units were in early stages of development. Intervention in acute MI was not even dreamed of, and sustained support and therapy for patients with acute respiratory failure was in its infancy. Many ICU patients today survive who would not have stayed alive for more than a day or two when I was a resident in internal medicine. This important advance is the result of many years of investigation into the pathophysiology and management of acute and chronic pulmonary failure.
- 4.Understanding and managing patients with inflammatory bowel disease: When I was a medical student, we were taught that ulcerative colitis resulted from severe psychological distress often related to a poor relationship with one's mother. Today, we understand the genetic and molecular underpinnings of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, and modern pharmacological therapy is usually successful in controlling this entity.3Total colectomy, common in the past, is infrequent today.
Inflammatory bowel disease-Gastroenterology Diamond Jubilee Review.Gastroenterology. 2018; 154: 1555-1558
- Mahadevan U
- Silverberg MS.
- 5.Leukemia: When I was an intern, most patients with an acute leukemia died rapidly from their disease or because of severe adverse events from early attempts at chemotherapy. Childhood leukemia was invariably fatal. Today many, if not most, children with childhood leukemia survive and may even be “cured,” although the long-term results are not yet known. Adult leukemias are still challenging but chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation have both led to prolonged survival.4
Toward the potential cure of leukemias in the next decade.Cancer. 2018; 124 (Erratum in: Cancer. 2019;125(10):1756): 4301-4313
- Kantarjian HM
- Keating MJ
- Freireich EJ.
- 6.A rapidly expanding geriatric population: Individuals living into their 90s was a rarity in my younger days. Today, however, 90-year-old patients are common and often live vigorous and active lives—the result of widespread understanding of healthy lifestyle approaches alongside modern medical preventive and therapeutic interventions.
- 7.Kidney failure: When I was an intern, the first in-hospital and community dialysis centers were being established. However, capacity at that time was minimal and most patients with chronic renal failure required recurrent admissions to the hospital for peritoneal dialysis. Today, community dialysis centers are common, and excellent results with renal transplantation lead to prolonged, high-quality survival for these individuals, many of whom lead active and productive lives.
- 8.Tuberculosis (TB): I saw many patients with active TB when I was a resident in Boston. Massachusetts had several TB sanatoria at that time. Our job as residents was to make the diagnosis, start effective antibiotic therapy, and arrange for these patients to be transferred to one of the local TB sanatoria. Some TB hospitals became famous (eg, Davos in Switzerland and Saranac Lake in upper New York State) and were even used as a background for novels and plays. Tuberculosis is still with us, of course, but it is predominantly seen in prison and homeless populations. The greatly feared “white plague” of yesteryear is no longer the scourge it was when I was a medical student and in post-graduate training. Today, there are multiple effective antibiotics for TB and the sanatoria have closed.5
Tuberculosis.Lancet. 2019; 393: 1642-1656
- Furin J
- Cox H
- Pai M.
- 9.Sudden death in the community: Survival of out of hospital sudden death was rare in the past and is still a high mortality event today. However, a substantial percentage of these patients do survive with excellent functional capacity because of effective community resuscitation training, emergency medical technician presence, availability of portable defibrillators, and advanced hospital life support systems.6
Sudden cardiac death: epidemiology, pathogenesis and management.Rev Cardiovasc Med. 2021; 22: 147-158
- Kumar A
- Avishay DM
- Jones CR
- et al.
- 10.Public health programs and primary care preventive medicine protocols: A variety of public health services, such as vaccinations, educational health and well-being programs, blood pressure screenings, and sexually transmitted disease services, have assisted in prolonging life for many individuals who live to an advanced age with good to excellent functional capacity. Public health efforts combined with primary care emphasis on preventive measures such as smoking cessation, blood pressure and lipid control, and a variety of other lifestyle recommendations (eg, regular exercise), have led to long life for many in our society.7It is of interest that today in any 24-hour period in the United States, more people become age 85 than are born!
Carrying out the Medicine/Public Health Initiative: the roles of preventive medicine and community-responsive care.Acad Med. 1999; 74: 473-483
- Cashman SB
- Anderson RJ
- Weisbuch JB
- Schwarz MR
- Fulmer HS.
As usual, I am happy to hear from readers about this or any other commentary that I have written. Next month, I will comment upon ongoing challenges to health and healthcare in 21st century United States.
- Epidemiology, clinical features, and prognosis of acute myocardial infarction in the elderly.Am J Geriatr Cardiol. 2006; 15: 7-11
- Four decades of HIV/AIDS - much accomplished, much to do.N Engl J Med. 2020; 383: 1-4
- Inflammatory bowel disease-Gastroenterology Diamond Jubilee Review.Gastroenterology. 2018; 154: 1555-1558
- Toward the potential cure of leukemias in the next decade.Cancer. 2018; 124 (Erratum in: Cancer. 2019;125(10):1756): 4301-4313
- Tuberculosis.Lancet. 2019; 393: 1642-1656
- Sudden cardiac death: epidemiology, pathogenesis and management.Rev Cardiovasc Med. 2021; 22: 147-158
- Carrying out the Medicine/Public Health Initiative: the roles of preventive medicine and community-responsive care.Acad Med. 1999; 74: 473-483
Published online: January 24, 2023
Accepted: January 18, 2023
Received: January 18, 2023
Publication stageIn Press Journal Pre-Proof
Conflict of Interest: None.
Authorship: The author is solely responsible for the content of this manuscript.
© 2023 Published by Elsevier Inc.