WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
In the world of medicine, "breakthrough" is not a word taken
lightly. But the prestigious British medical journal BMJ soon plans to
name what it considers the greatest medical breakthrough since 1840 -- the year
the journal was launched.
Last year, BMJ invited readers to submit nominations for the honor.
Now in contention are 15 medical advances, ranging from anesthesia to vaccines,
that over the decades have saved millions of lives and immeasurable human
These breakthroughs were culled from more than 100 nominations from
BMJ readers -- mostly physicians and scientists -- based on the
ability of each medical development to transform lives around the world.
Among the suggested breakthroughs that didn't make the cut? Condoms, Viagra,
soap, exercise, and the mobile phone.
For the 15 advances that made the short list, BMJ has chosen 15
leading doctors and scientists to champion each milestone in contention for top
honor. These are respected medical experts, including the creator of the modern
controlbirth control pill, a
descendent of the scientist who helped developed anesthesia, and the author of
a book on the history of penicillin.
Beginning Friday, Jan. 5, subscribers and the general public can log onto
the web site, read arguments for all 15 advances, and vote for their personal
favorite. The deadline for voting is Sunday, Jan. 14, and the winning
breakthrough will be announced Jan. 18 on the site.
Here is a sneak peek and description of the 15 advances that made the
shortlist, to give you a running start:
The Envelope, Please
To vote, visit www.bmj.com.
SOURCES: News release, BMJ; Jackson, T. BMJ, Sept. 9,
2006; vol 333: p 7567. Massachusetts General Hospital Neurological Service:
"Medicine's Greatest Gift." American Chemical Society: "The
Discovery and Development of Penicillin." National Schizophrenia
Foundation: "Historical Figures." Agency for Healthcare Research and
Quality: "Computers in Medicine." Princeton University: "History of
Computers in Medicine." NobelPrize.org: "The Discovery of the Molecular
Structure of DNA -- The Double Helix." White, B. Family Practice
Management, February 2004; vol 11: pp 51-8. Howard Hughes Medical
Institute: "Immunology and Infectious Diseases." University of
Pittsburgh Department of Immunology: "The Importance of Immunology." Da
Cunha Ferreira, RM. Clinical Therapeutics, 1990; vol 12: pp 2-11.
American Chemical Society: "Oral Contraceptives." News release, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services. Prabhat, J. Canadian Medical
Association Journal, Aug. 30, 2005; vol 173: p 476. Lancaster University:
"Brief History of Medical Imaging." News release, World Health
Organization. Encyclopedia of Death and Dying: "Public
Health." Biotech Hobbyist Magazine: "A brief history of tissue
culture." Cooperative Research Centre for Vaccine Technology: "Vaccine
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