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New employees of FMG America get to choose their favorite FMG of all time. One of our most
interesting choices of the recent past is Avicenna. He is the most famous of all historical Persian
physicians. Born in Bukhara, Avicenna was well renown as a brilliant physician, philosopher and
mathematician. In the West, he was also known as the "Prince of Physicians" for his famous
medical text, al-Qanun "Canon". The Qanun points out the importance of dietetics, the influence
of climate and environment on health and the surgical use of oral anaesthetics. Avicenna advised
surgeons to treat cancer in its earliest stages, ensuring the removal of all the diseased tissue. The
Qanun's "materia medica" considers some 760 drugs, with comments on their application and
effectiveness. He recommended the testing of a new drug on animals and humans prior to general
Avicenna noted the close relationship between emotions and the physical condition and felt that music
had a definite physical and psychological effect on patients. Of the many psychological disorders that
he described in the Qanun, one is of unusual interest: love sickness! Upon treating the royal court,
Avicenna noted a fluttering in the prince's pulse when the address and name of his beloved were
mentioned. The great doctor had a simple remedy: "unite the sufferer with the beloved". From
the 12th-17th century, the Qanun served as the chief guide to medical science in the West and is said
to have influenced Leonardo da Vinci. A tireless thinker, writer, teacher and researcher, friends
Welcome the Newest Member of FMG America
advised Avicenna to slow down and take life in moderation, but this was not in character. "I prefer a short life with width to a narrow one
with length", he would reply. Worn out by hard work and hard living, Avicenna died in 1037 at a comparatively early age of 58 years. He
was buried in Hamadan, modern day southern Iran, where his grave can still be visited in close proximity to Mordechai and Queen Esther.
New employees of FMG America get to highlight their favorite historical FMG. Our newest choice is
the most renowned Jewish physician of the Middle Ages and who was also a distinguished rabbi and
philosopher. Maimonides, or Rabbi Moses ben Maimon was also known by the acronym The Rambam.
Born in Cordoba, Spain, he and his family fled to Fez, Morocco due to religious persecution. Later he
went to Palestine and then to Cairo, Egypt, where he became a physician at the court of the Sultan,
Saladin, and his sons. First taught medicine by his father, Maimonides had a prodigious literary output,
including extensive writing on medical matters. These were written at the end of his life, after his
monumental religious and philosophical works. Maimonides strongly believed in prophylactic medicine.
In his Guide to the Perplexed he wrote: "Among a thousand persons only one dies a natural
death: the rest succumb early in life owing to ignorant or irregular behavior." Maimonides
considered the study of medicine to be a very important paramount factor of religious ethics. “It
helps to maintain the fitness of the body and enables man to purify and raise his strength to
an uplifted ethical plane."
While Chief Rabbi of the large Jewish community in Cairo, Maimonides only turned to medicine as a
livelihood to support his family after the tragic death of his brother David and the loss of the family
fortune in a shipwreck. Maimonides' fame as a physician spread rapidly. It is related that during the
third Christian Crusade in neighboring Palestine, Richard the Lion-Hearted, King of England, asked
Maimonides to become his personal physician, an offer which Maimonides declined. He enumerated very strict and precise rules for
maintaining health, telling those who obeyed them that: "I give him a guaranty that... he will not need a physician, and his body will
be perfect and faultless all his days. This on the condition that his body was not imperfect from birth, that he has not adopted
bad conduct from childhood, and that there did not come a disaster of plague or dryness upon the world."
Besides codifying, commentating, and translating many of the great classic authors, Maimonides made many original observations of his
own, including works on nutrition, the anatomy of the uterus and on sexual intercourse. His book Hanhagot Habriut or Regimen of Health
was composed for the Sultan's oldest son, Al Malik Sultan al-Afdahl. In this treatise, Maimonides stressed the treatment of the patient, not
the illness. "If a patient can be managed with a measurement of nourishment alone, he should not be treated with medication.
If a physician cannot manage without medication, then begin with very mild ones, before resorting to stronger ones."
Maimonides was probably the first modern dietitian, focusing a healthy lifestyle on eating well and exercising regularly. His advice 800
years ago should be well headed today with the global epidemic of obesity. "Do not eat your fill at mealtime; rather stop when you
are about three-quarters full. Drink only a small amount of water mixed with wine during the meal. Once the food has begun
to digest, you may drink all you want. Another rule of health is that as long as a person exercises vigorously, does not eat his
fill, and has a soft stool he will not become sick, and will feel robust- even if he eats harmful foods. Conversely, an idle person
who does not exercise, neglects the call of nature and is constipated, will be in pain and feel rundown, even if he eats proper
foods and medicine. Overeating is poison for the body and the primary cause of all sickness. Most illness are brought on by
harmful foods, or by gorging oneself, even with healthful foods."
Maimonides was also keen to support the ancient & mystical cure-all remedy of Chicken Soup, often called Jewish penicillin. "One
should always attempt to partake of the meat of chickens or hens. One should always drink their broth because this kind of
fowl has the property of improving physical complaints; and may even cure leprosy." "When compared with 'pseudo soup' — a
hot liquid that contains the same amount of proteins, sugars, carbohydrates, but not made from chicken — studies show chicken soup does
have some mysterious healing properties over and above just being a hot, nutritious liquid," says Dr. James Dillard, assistant clinical
professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. Those healing properties became a little less
mysterious with the publication of studies recently in the journal Chest. They documented that chicken soup stopped the movement of
neutrophils, white blood cells that stimulate the release of mucus. Immediately following infection with a virus, the body moves large
amounts of neutrophils to the site of the inflammation, causing a rush of symptoms that can range from a runny nose to severe chest
congestion. Inhibiting that movement, say experts, may be one reason why chicken soup makes you feel better. Marvin Sackner, M.D., a
pulmonary specialist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, found that sipping hot chicken soup cleared up congestion -- that is,
promoted the flow of air and mucus in the nasal passages -- better than plain hot or cold water. He found that even cold chicken soup helps
clear the cold in your nose, but steamy soup is a quicker, more efficient remedy. Irwin Ziment, M.D., pulmonary specialist and professor
at the UCLA School of Medicine found that chicken soup contains drug-like agents similar to those in modern cold medicines. For
example, cysteine, an amino acid released from chicken in cooking, chemically resembles the drug acetylcysteine, prescribed for bronchitis
and other respiratory problems. Pungent ingredients often added to chicken soup, such as garlic, cayenne pepper and curry spices are all
ancient treatments for respiratory diseases. They work the same way as expectorant drugs and cough medicines, thinning mucus and
making breathing easier. The National University of Singapore found that chicken extract,a concentrated form of chicken soup, can help
keep the heart healthy. Researchers fed rats with high-blood pressure a commercially bottled chicken extract. The rats had a 40% to 50%
reduction in heart swelling and a 60% decrease in the thickening of blood vessels over a year compared with the control group. Researchers
believe that a specific peptide, a type of short protein, that is found in human blood and produced by most tissues, is the key to how chicken
extracts keep the heart healthy and blood vessels healthy. While peptides are present in most meat proteins, only those found in chicken
worked significantly. Interestingly, pork extract showed virtually no positive effects on the heart and blood vessels. (For your own home
made prescription needs, click on- CHICKEN SOUP RECIPES.)
But it was on medical ethics that Maimonides made his greatest contribution. For example, when a conflict arose between the life of a
woman and her fetus, he taught that the life of the mother should take precedence and that, if necessary, an embryotomy should be
"God above, before I begin my holy work, healing Your creation [human beings], I lay my plea before You, that You will grant
me the strength of spirit and the vast energy to do my work with faith, and that the aspiration to accumulate wealth will not
blind my eyes from seeing one who is suffering, one who comes for my professional advice, as a human being, whether rich or
poor, friend or foe, the good and the evil person, in his sorrowful moment reveal to me only the human being in him. My love
for the learning of medicine should only strengthen my spirit, only the truth shall be the light before my feet, for any weakness
in my work might bring about death and illness to Your creation. I beg you, please, compassionate and gracious God,
strengthen and focus my body and my soul and plant within me a spirit that is whole."
Maimonides classified medicine into three divisions: preventive medicine; healing of the sick; and care of the invalids and the aged. His
medical teachings are of a strictly rational character. He disapproved strongly of the use of charms and amulets in treating the sick. He
encouraged his disciples to observe and reason critically and insisted on experiment and research. Maimonides also composed an oath for
all physicians, which expresses the profound obligation of the physician to heal with devotion and humility, and a prayer for God's
assistance and intervention. Like the famous oath of Hippocrates, the prayer of Maimonides is often recited by new medical graduates.
"Almighty God, Thou has created the human body with infinite wisdom. Ten thousand times ten thousand organs hast Thou
combined in it that act unceasingly and harmoniously to preserve the whole in all its beauty the body which is the envelope of
the immortal soul. They are ever acting in perfect order, agreement and accord. Yet, when the frailty of matter or the
unbridling of passions deranges this order or interrupts this accord, then forces clash and the body crumbles into the primal
dust from which it came. Thou sendest to man diseases as beneficent messengers to foretell approaching danger and to urge
him to avert it."
"Thou has blessed Thine earth, Thy rivers and Thy mountains with healing substances; they enable Thy creatures to alleviate
their sufferings and to heal their illnesses. Thou hast endowed man with the wisdom to relieve the suffering of his brother, to
recognize his disorders, to extract the healing substances, to discover their powers and to prepare and to apply them to suit
every ill. In Thine Eternal Providence Thou hast chosen me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures. I am now about
to apply myself to the duties of my profession. Support me, Almighty God, in these great labors that they may benefit mankind,
for without Thy help not even the least thing will succeed."
"Inspire me with love for my art and for Thy creatures. Do not allow thirst for profit, ambition for renown and admiration, to
interfere with my profession, for these are the enemies of truth and of love for mankind and they can lead astray in the great
task of attending to the welfare of Thy creatures. Preserve the strength of my body and of my soul that they ever be ready to
cheerfully help and support rich and poor, good and bad, enemy as well as friend. In the sufferer let me see only the human
being. Illumine my mind that it recognize what presents itself and that it may comprehend what is absent or hidden. Let it not
fail to see what is visible, but do not permit it to arrogate to itself the power to see what cannot be seen, for delicate and
indefinite are the bounds of the great art of caring for the lives and health of Thy creatures. Let me never be absent- minded.
May no strange thoughts divert my attention at the bedside of the sick, or disturb my mind in its silent labors, for great and
sacred are the thoughtful deliberations required to preserve the lives and health of Thy creatures."
"Grant that my patients have confidence in me and my art and follow my directions and my counsel. Remove from their midst
all charlatans and the whole host of officious relatives and know-all nurses, cruel people who arrogantly frustrate the wisest
purposes of our art and often lead Thy creatures to their death."
"Should those who are wiser than I wish to improve and instruct me, let my soul gratefully follow their guidance; for vast is the
extent of our art. Should conceited fools, however, censure me, then let love for my profession steel me against them, so that I
remain steadfast without regard for age, for reputation, or for honor, because surrender would bring to Thy creatures sickness
"Imbue my soul with gentleness and calmness when older colleagues, proud of their age, wish to displace me or to scorn me or
disdainfully to teach me. May even this be of advantage to me, for they know many things of which I am ignorant, but let not
their arrogance give me pain. For they are old and old age is not master of the passions. I also hope to attain old age upon this
earth, before Thee, Almighty God!"
"Let me be contented in everything except in the great science of my profession. Never allow the thought to arise in me that I
have attained to sufficient knowledge, but vouchsafe to me the strength, the leisure and the ambition ever to extend my
knowledge. For art is great, but the mind of man is ever expanding."
"Almighty God! Thou hast chosen me in Thy mercy to watch over the life and death of Thy creatures. I now apply myself to my
profession. Support me in this great task so that it may benefit mankind, for without Thy help not even the least thing will
Maimonides advocated a very broad education for doctors and emphasized the need to maintain physical health, vigor and specifically
nutrition, for as he wrote: "... it is impossible for one to understand sciences and meditate upon them when he is hungry or
He was fully aware of the importance of psychosomatic disorders and warned against hurrying to treat such cases with medicine. He
wrote: "Therefore it is the physicians' order to keep in sight the movements of the soul, to study them constantly, and to try to
bring them into balance in health as well as in disease ... It is the first principle in the treatment of every patient, and especially
in psychic diseases..."
His advice to the surgeons was also very sound: "When you think of cutting out something of the body, keep in mind three
intentions. The first that your work shall be finished in the shortest time possible; the second that no pain at all shall be caused;
the third, that you be sure of the result. However, the result will require three intentions. First, be clearly aware that your
intentions will be attained with certainty; second, if this cannot be achieved, at least no damage shall ensue from side effects;
third, be sure that the disease shall not relapse. Then when you consider these intentions it will be evident to you that at times
surgical and at times medicinal treatment will be more praiseworthy."
Maimonides bemoaned the fact that "people...seek medical help from anyone whom they meet by chance and from everything
which seems new." He elaborated on the dangers of seeking advice from too many physicians: "... seldom is a physician called to treat
a patient from the beginning of his illness till its end; rather they wander from one physician to another. Sometimes the patient
is being attended by ten physicians according to his means, without one knowing of the other. The patient then takes the
advice of each of the doctors, makes his decision, and chooses what he finds good by his own judgment. This practice has
disadvantages ... First, the perplexity of the patient himself who does not know with whom the truth lies. Second, the perplexity
of the physician; because, if he could attend the case from beginning to end, then seeing success he would continue his way of
treatment, while seeing the contrary he would take another way. Third, the damage to the physicians when every one of them
criticizes his fellow physician and imputes errors to him. And fourth, the inertness of the physician and the weakness of his
thought, and his dependence on the others; and his knowing that if he erred the error will not be attached to his name alone;
and if he were on the right way, he would not be the only one to be credited with the success. Therefore he will not strive to
proceed as he should according to his opinion, knowing that nobody relies on him alone." Maimonides recognized too how difficult
it was for a doctor "to make money and at the same time to practice the immense art (of medicine); of necessity he will despise
the one, the more eagerly he hastens towards the other."
Maimonides died in Cairo on December 13, 1204, at the age of 69. He was buried in Tiberias, Israel. With his death, his reputation as
philosopher, rabbi and physician assumed even higher respect in Arabic and Christian as well as in Jewish circles.