The ancient Greek, Hippocrates, is considered the father of Western medicine. He is best known for writing the oath that, to this day, new doctors recite upon graduating from medical school.
This copper portrait medal of Hippocrates was designed by Jacques Devigne for the Paris Mint in 1983. It is part of the Ralph R. and Patricia N. Sonnenschein Collection of Medical and Scientific Portrait and Commemorative Medals.
But as medicine has changed and advanced in the nearly 2,500 years since the pledge to practice honorably and conscientiously was first administered, so too has the oath itself.
The current UCLA oath, which this year’s graduates from the David Geffen School of Medicine recited on Friday, May 31, at their hooding ceremony, was adapted by now-Dean Emeritus Sherman Mellinkoff and differs significantly from the version recited by the first graduating class in 1955.
Seeking to share a sense of the oath’s evolution, the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library’s History and Special Collections for the Sciences is presenting a mini-exhibit, "The Hippocratic Oaths … Plural (Six Centuries of Texts, Six Decades of Commencements)", that demonstrates how the oath has changed and been portrayed through the years.
To briefly illustrate the history of how the Hippocratic oath has been adapted to fit the times and different cultural norms, the exhibit includes six-century-old texts, commencement programs, an academic medical badge presented by Nicholas II of Russia to a new doctor in 1915, portrait medals and even a leaf from "the" Hippocratic tree, which is in the town of Kos, Greece. According to the legend, the Tree of Hippocrates is where he taught his pupils.
The exhibit is on view through June 23 at the biomedical library, which is on the first floor of the Center for Health Sciences building.