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The Savior of Mothers was a Crank

semmelweis picDr. Ignas Semmelweis, “The Savior of Mothers,” have you ever heard of him? He was a 19th century Hungarian doctor who had the nerve and proof to suggest that doctors should wash and disinfect their hands prior to procedures in the obstetrical clinic of Vienna General Hospital. He dropped the mortality rate from 10-35% down to less than 1%. Despite publishing this data he was ridiculed and persecuted by the medical establishment of his time. Tragically, 14 days after being admitted to an asylum he was beaten to death by the guards at age 47. It was not until years after his death that the germ theory was proven and his hand washing procedures were widely accepted.

Fast forward to 2005. Dr. Barry Marshall and Dr. Robin Warren are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for proving that stomach ulcers are caused by an infection, not stress or excess acid. But since the early 1980’s they were criticized and ridiculed for their theory. Barry Marshall had to go so far as to infect himself with H. Pylori bacteria to prove the theory.

Could this ever happen now? Regenerative Medicine, in the form of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), is fighting a similar uphill battle. PRP, when done properly, is treating conditions where traditional medicine has given up or can only offer a surgical option such as back pain, ligaments and tendons injuries, and most importantly arthritis. Unfortunately as physicians we tend to hold onto old beliefs. Then later we see that what was once considered absurd and crazy turns out to be medical fact.

“A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.” – Mark Twain