International Handbook of Medical Education

By Abdul W. Sajid; Christine H. McGuire et al. | Go to book overview
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11
Egypt

NABILA HIDAYET

Medical education in Egypt can be traced back to the time of the Pharaohs, when healers, magicians, and physicians received different types of training, each according to their disease realm, whether natural or supernatural. Priest- physicians ranked highest among all categories of healers, followed by lay physicians. From the strict hierarchy of their titles, it is surmised that some control was exerted on their activities, whether from their peers or the state. According to the Greek historian Diodorus, physicians were severely treated if their management of diseases deviated from the books, which implies the existence of formal teaching and recognized texts. There is no doubt that in their search for knowledge and wisdom, candidates frequently visited the "Houses of Life" attached to temples that functioned as documentation centers. In his book, Ghalioungi gave, with good justification, an important place to the influences exerted by Egyptian medical science on the beginnings of Greek medicine.

The Egyptians also developed medical knowledge, although most of their medical texts treat illness as supernatural in cause and cure, some show an understanding of the body probably gained from the practice of embalming the dead. A document called the Edwin Smith surgical papyrus . . . contains the idea that the heart is the source of the body's life and influences the rest of the body, . . . describes various kinds of bone fractures and suggests rest, diet, surgery, and various medications. Other texts show that there were Egyptian specialists in ailments of the eye, teeth and internal organs. A number of popular therapeutics actually practiced in Egypt today are no doubt directly inherited from ancestors and treatments prescribed in hieroglyphic documents ( Ghalioungi 1973).

In contemporary Egypt, Mohamed Ali opened the first medical school at Abou Zaabal, Cairo, in 1827 ( Mahfouz 1935). The curriculum of the school was based on the Western biomedical paradigm and modeled on the British system. The school was placed under the direction of a European and was intended to train medical specialists. In 1919, this medical school became the Faculty of Medicine in Cairo University. Medical and health services gradually developed,

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