Prairie Doc Perspective Week of September 3rd, 2023
“With New Knowledge comes New Discoveries”
By Andrew Ellsworth, MD
My son is a Boy Scout. Hopefully, he will become an Eagle Scout like his dad, his grandpa, his uncle, and not to mention eleven of the twelve men that walked on the moon. Whether he does or not, it has been an honor seeing the program help him and other boys mature into responsible young men.
This summer, our troop took our canoes along the 108 miles on the Missouri River in Montana, in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. That stretch of the Missouri, where the river has carved impressive rock formations that create “breaks” in the land, is largely untouched and flows as it did for Lewis and Clark’s expedition in 1804 to 1806.
Canoeing and camping along the same places as the Corps of Discovery was an amazing experience, and provided ample time to ponder the immense changes our nation has made in 200 years.
Medicine has also made immense changes and progress in the last two centuries. For instance, bloodletting, which had been used for thousands of years, was still in practice at the time of Lewis and Clark, although some physicians were doing studies that showed its harms and limited benefit. Contrast that to advances today in germ theory, insulin for diabetes, surgical advances, tiny stents that can open up blood vessels in the heart and brain, x-rays, CTs and MRIs, amazing new drugs, the list is exponential.
Dr. Benjamin Rush was a leading American physician at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. A big proponent of bloodletting and purging, he convinced Meriweather Lewis to bring 600 of his “Rush’s Thunderbolts” pills along the journey. Containing mercury and other strong purgatives, they were used for about anything. They cleared your bowels if nothing else. Higher levels of mercury in the soil have helped identify where Lewis and Clark camped.
As “Prairie Docs” we know we do not have all the answers, and some of our answers, because of science and research, can and do change with time. That is one reason we invite other medical experts to write articles and be on the “On Call with the Prairie Doc” shows. We are dedicated to enhancing health and diminishing suffering by communicating useful information, based on honest science, provided in a respectful and compassionate manner. We want to highlight the changes and progress in medicine, while also stressing the importance of good old preventative care, a healthy diet, and exercise. We do this as volunteers, because we all know the importance of providing trusted health information free to our audience. We are funded by you, our readers and viewers. Thank you for your support and trust as we begin our 22nd season.
Andrew Ellsworth, M.D. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices family medicine in Brookings, South Dakota.