Innovation and tradition

Bologna, 20-23 April 2017

Innovation and tradition in Bio-Medical Science
An essential confrontation

Medicine is a “body of developing applied sciences”, according to a famous definition of the historian and epistemologist of the biomedical sciences George Canguilhem, shared by Mirko Grmek and by the most qualified philosophers of medicine of the 20th century. This idea entails that the transformation of medicine into something dealing with science started only from the second half of the 19th century. Previously, medicine was no more than a practice. This definition, however, goes beyond the usual clichés about its nature: whether it is an art – as the clinicians used to think with reference to the importance of the experience and diagnostic creativity of the single doctor – or a science, as supposed by the physiopathologists, claiming that the use of the basic sciences and experimental research was essential to discover the causes of diseases.

In the last fifty years, the history of medicine has been characterized by a collaborative confrontation between innovation and tradition. For decades this took place, almost naturally, throughout the different generations. However, recently, during our times, it has acquired strong intergenerational connotations. Innovation, driven by the continuous progress of the basic sciences and the application of these results within a clinical field, is happening increasingly quickly, thus transforming that essential confrontation into an almost conflictual relationship.

Enough to allow the diffusion of the idea, which has also developed in the medical world, that medicine has become too scientific or too technological; so much so, that medicine has lost sight of the patient as a person. In other words, it has lost its sense of humanity.

This is not true. Actually, the negative perception of this confrontation between innovation and tradition is misleading. What is happening today in medicine, thanks to scientific and technological progress, is a valorization and understanding of the best that had previously been acquired by medicine before its scientific transformation. A valorization and better understanding of tradition.

The third edition of the Festival della Scienza Medica of Bologna is dedicated to this essential confrontation between innovation and tradition. As in the previous editions, several contributions will aim to show how relevant scientific and technological progress is in establishing the values of the psychological aspects within the doctor-patient relationship, in the personalization of medical treatment, in non-authoritarian caring and in the educational role of the medical and health sector, etc.

Digging into the past, regarding the historical aspects, will not be left out, going through the more or less ancient discoveries and explanations concerning medicine and disease. The paths and events that have imposed the biomedical world to intellectually reorganize intervening strategies to help patients will be retraced, leading up to the current discoveries and innovations of today.

The theme of the third edition of the Festival della Scienza Medica is socially and culturally heart-felt and it is often subject to discussion. On one hand, pressure coming from basic research and the demand for healthcare generates specific market dynamics to constantly change and improve diagnostic technologies and medical treatment. On the other hand, we are witnessing the assertion of some traditional values, almost an attempt to protect oneself by defending them; a typical example of this is the doctor-patient relationship, which is considered as being threatened by the possible dehumanizing dimensions of technological innovation.

With the third edition of the Festival della Scienza Medica, we would like to demonstrate that there is no substantial contradiction between innovation and tradition, if the problem is analyzed from a coherent cultural perspective. This is the stimulating perspective that Bologna Medicina would like to open for public debate.

Gilberto Corbellini and Pino Donghi