Herman Boerhaave

Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) - Father of the University Hospital

Though university hospitals have long been an ingrained part of the medical system, most people rarely think of their origins. The teaching of medical students in a clinical setting was pioneered by Voorburg native Herman Boerhaave, who is known as the father of the Academic Medical Hospital.

Boerhaave graduated from Medical School in Leiden in 1693, where he had studied on a scholarship, because his widowed mother could not afford to pay his tuition. Several years later, he was appointed lecturer and later professor at his alma mater.

In 1714 when he was appointed Dean of the Medical Faculty, he started bringing students along with him on his rounds to observe hospital patients. He conducted what became known as his ‘sickbed lessons’, which are viewed as the beginning of modern clinical instruction. Now referred to as ‘medical rounds’, these lessons form the foundation of university hospitals everywhere. Boerhaave was highly regarded, received students from all over Europe and corresponded with contacts from as far away as China.

The Leiden location where Boerhaave gave his pioneering sickbed lessons now operates as a science museum, named Museum Boerhaave. The old doctor would likely derive much satisfaction from knowing that the Leiden University Medical Center still conducts training sessions known as ‘Boerhaave courses’.

For more in-depth coverage of Herman Boerhaave, read Issue 29 of DUTCH the magazine.

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Original article by: Ray Cavanaugh