Primary Care Medicine As A Distinct Division Of Medicine

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The history of primary care as a distinct division of medicine is a recent development, when considering the whole of the timeline of human medicine. In fact, the widespread differentiation of such divisions as Family Medicine, Pediatric Medicine, and Geriatric Medicine, to name but a few, have largely only taken place in the latter half of the 20th century. However, to assume that there is little left to discuss regarding primary care medicine before that time would be facile- indeed, for most of recorded medical history, the "primary care specialty" encompassed nearly all of medicine.

Primary care has its origins in the beginnings of medicine itself. At one point, all physicians could be said to be primary care physicians- although
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Perhaps surgery itself could then be considered to be the first specialty.

The role of a physician prior to the 20th century was very different than it is today. Because there was no formal medical schooling standard, there were many different disciplines of medicine, and physicians adhered to different disciplines in varying degrees, with (predictably) varying results. These disciplines included homeopathy, which emphasizes the principle of "like heals like", and that ailments can be treated with heavily diluted solutions containing toxins. This was a widely practiced field of "medicine" up until the 20th century, and is still practiced today, although to a lesser degree. Physicians received a wide variety of training, and many were simply apprenticed to an older, more experienced physician, and incorporated their techniques and remedies into their own repertoire. In further contrast to the current model of primary care, physicians almost exclusively made "house calls", rarely practicing out of hospitals or offices. Many would travel the countryside, visiting patients and performing whatever treatment they deemed necessary. Indeed, these early versions of what we would today call Primary Care Providers were equipped to
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