That is a question many people, not just students, ask. Unfortunately, there is no short answer to the question. Instead, we have stories that attempt to clarify why it matters, why every student of medicine should care about research.
Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis (https://bit.ly/3mVzCpR) discovered that puerperal fever (childbed fever) the cause of so many maternal deaths after childbirth, was caused by a staph bacteria spread by medical doctors. Those first obstetricians believed that their bloodied birthing aprons proved their success delivering babies. Semmelweis’ conclusions were vehemently rejected by the medical community because he had observations but no scientific proof.
Ultimately, Dr. Louis Pasteur proved scientifically that germs do spread disease. To stop the spread of infection, doctors had to wash their hands. This seems so obvious today, but until Dr. Pasteur proved that unwashed hands spread germs, most doctors resisted washing their hands between patients.
Today, we rely on the scientific method, on research to show us that what we observe to be true, what we think is true, actually is true. We benefit from the work of many researchers asking why this or that happens. Why do hair-thin needles placed in certain places on the body relieve pain? Why does manipulating spinal vertebrae help people walk without pain? Why do some acute symptoms require a trip to the ER but chronic conditions often respond well to acupuncture?
Answering “why” questions is the basis of progress and change. By asking and answering those questions, researchers provide a solid scientific basis on which to make healthcare decisions that have the potential to lead to a better quality of life for many people.
In the end, we do research because the health and well-being of people matters.
Gail A. Rekers, Ph.D.
- Director of Research and Online Education
- Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture