Hippocrates and modern medicine: Vicki Kotsirilos AM to give talk at Hellenic Museum

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Associate Professor Vicki Kotsirilos AM, medical practitioner and regular keynote speaker, will give an insightful talk in April on ‘Hippocrates and Modern Medicine’ exploring the enduring legacy of the ancient Greek ‘Father of Medicine.’

The presentation will be held on April 7, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm, at the Hellenic Museum, 280 William St, Melbourne.

Event Synopsis:

Hippocrates (460 to 377 BC), the ancient Greek physician, is referred to as the “father of modern medicine”. Born on the island of Kos 460BC, nearly 2500 thousand years ago, Hippocrates was an Influential ancient Greek physician and teacher. He set up a school at the Asklepion [a healing temple] and taught medicine. The Asklepion is now an archaeological monument on the island Kos.

Hippocrates was well ahead of his time as his teachings shaped the foundations of modern medicine, and continue to remain relevant today.

Hippocratic medicine moved away from supernatural thinking such as “disease was a punishment for sin” and attributing medical conditions to divine intervention, towards more rational approaches for understanding the human body. The developments provided more “scientific” and rational reasons for ailments, making diagnoses and prescribing lifestyle advice such as diet, exercise, rest, hygiene, and sleep.

Whilst Hippocrates’ approach was not backed by the same scientific evidence and rigour of today, his methods of observation, empirical learning and clinical knowledge brought him to the conclusion that lifestyle changes, the climate, and environment manifested and impacted diseases. 

It was Hippocratic thinking that started the trend on treating the body as a “whole” – the concept of holistic health care. Hippocrates stressed the idea of balance between mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, and that disease was a disturbance of this balance.

Hippocrates also first described that the human body could heal itself if given the right conditions and that good health can return to normal with a “moderate diet”, “walking for good health” and “a strong belief that patients with good spirit will recover faster”.

You could say these concepts are the beginnings that we appreciate today – self-care, a healthy lifestyle and encouraging patients to take more control of their health.

Hippocratic quotes include:

  • “The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well,” meaning we all have the ability to heal.
  • “It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.”

Hippocrates also advised his doctors to have a “cheerful face and special care for their patients” – the importance of a good doctor-patient relationship which we value. “Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always,” he said.

We are also aware of the Hippocratic Oath, the cornerstone of medical ethical practice and the emphasis on treatments to “do no harm.”

The Hippocratic Corpus or Hippocratic Collection consists of about 60 ancient Greek medical works associated with Hippocrates and his teaching. The Collection covers many diverse aspects of medicine from Hippocrates’ medical theories, to ethics in medical practice, and addressing various illnesses. It varied in content, time, style, methods, and views practiced, so it was likely compiled by students and other physicians at different stages.

hellenic museum event flyer
Hellenic museum presents Hippocrates and modern medicine.

Hippocratic teachings and therapies included massage, surgical skills, and herbal medicine for the treatment of diseases. Herbs are still used today but over the years have since been replaced with pharmaceutical medicines.

At this exciting event, Professor Vicki Kotsirilos will present the principles and philosophy of Hippocratic teaching, how lifestyle advice provided by Hippocrates are still relevant today, and which herbs used by Hippocrates have some scientific validity proven to demonstrate efficacy today. Hippocrates certainly played an important role in shaping today’s medicine and our approach to patient care, and for some of the therapies and procedures we continue to use today.

About the Presenter

Associate Professor Vicki Kotsirilos AM is a well-known, respected medical practitioner and adjunct Professor with the University of Western Sydney. She has visited the birthplace of Hippocrates on the island of Kos, and sourced information from the local Hippocrates Library and Asclepeon (a healing centre in honor of the God of Healing, Asclepius.)

Assoc. Prof. Kotsirilos has delivered numerous public talks, including as a keynote presenter on the works of Hippocrates at the Medico-legal Society Conference held on the island of Kos in 2011, and with The Hellenic Medical Society of Australia (HMSA) in 2018. She has published over 150 articles on various medical topics across a number of medical journals and public magazines, including the Medical Journal of Australia Insight, Prevention magazine, Australian Doctor, Medical Observer, and the Medical Republic

Her work has seen her awarded a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia in 2016, and an Australia Day Environmental Award by Bayside City Council in 2017, among others. Assoc. Prof. Kotsirilos’ goal and passion is rooted in helping our society maintain a healthy community and population and preserving and protecting our natural environment for future generations to enjoy.

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