‘Galen’ – first pointed me to Hippocrates. ‘Galen’, not the great physician philosopher of ancient times but a ‘modern’ version who, for me, was no less inspiring, was the pseudonym used in Kathimerini, a daily newspaper in Greece, by a Professor of the History of Medicine in Athens, Dr Spyros Marketos. Every Sunday, absorbed by his words, I found inspiration particularly about his accounts of the lives and work of great medical scientists that had shaped modern medicine; the pathologist, George Papanikolaou, DNA pioneers James Watson and Francis Crick.
In 1987, while still a medical student in Northern Greece, I wrote to ‘Galen’ asking to meet him. ‘Galen’, Professor Marketos, replied inviting me to visit him. Travelling overnight in the sleeper of a slow train from Thessaloniki to Athens, I arrived as the sun appeared on the horizon. I stayed in a small hotel near the Acropolis and walked to his office in Kolonaki, in Athens. This was to be the first of countless trips over the next few years.
Professor Marketos had invited me to join his circle of young medical students studying the history and philosophy of medicine. And so my journey began.
Studying the books in the Hippocratic Corpus, I discovered that Hippocrates and his followers knew how to use diet to restore health in people. Despite the fact that they did not have our anatomical, biochemical and physiological understanding, they used methods from an understanding of the needs of the human body.
From ‘Galen’ and my own interest in Hippocrates, I went on to study for an MSc in Nutritional Medicine at the University of Surrey, the first university-level, evidence-based Masters degree course in this subject in the UK.
Recently, on a visit to Kos, continuing my research into the life of Hippocrates, my journey has, in a sense also brought me back to ‘Galen’.
I feel truly indebted to Professor Spyros Marketos who inspired me at the beginning of my medical career.