Our visit to the Musée du service de santé des armées (Army Health Service Museum) was a very impactful experience. It was incredible to see the influence that the military has had on the development of medicine. During our visit to Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, I found that the makeshift military hospital set up there had one of the first X-ray machines in clinical usage. This tied in beautifully to my experience at the Army Health Service Museum because I learned even more about how the French military was at the forefront of innovation in healthcare in this country.
Medical personnel in the French military were imbued with a certain level of prestige. There were several swords in the museum collection that had a Rod of Asclepius incorporated into the handle. These individuals were pivotal to the success or failure of French military campaigns. One painting even depicted a man who appeared to be a general getting a leg wound bandaged while he was on his horse, with a war scene raging in the background. The services medical personnel render therefore are essential to the military, as Jones, Canham-Chervak, and Sleet (2010) stated, “It is clear that injuries are a tremendous drain on military manpower during peacetime and times of armed conflict.” It is not an overstatement to say that without medical personnel, militaries would fall apart.
Therefore, it was amazing to see the level of honor given to the men and women who worked in a medical capacity by the French military. These individuals may never have used a weapon in combat, but these used tools like the ones shown below to contribute in indispensable ways.
The French military contributed immensely to modern medicine. For instance, in the midst of World War I, the Médecin Général Hyacin the Vincent prepared the first typhoid vaccine (Binder, 1999). Other French military medical personnel first discovered the agent of the plague and found the parasite that caused malaria in human blood, the latter insight earning its discoverer the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1907 (Binder, 1999). Even as early as 1893, French military medical personnel were involved in innovations in the prevention and treatment of tetanus (Binder, 1999).
Learning about the impact of the French military on the history of medical innovation was fascinating and I really enjoyed visiting this museum.
Jones, B. H., Canham-Chervak, M., & Sleet, D. A. (2010). An evidence-based public health approach to injury priorities and prevention: Recommendations for the U.S. military. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 38(1), S1-S10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2009.10.001
Binder, P. (1999). Biomedical research: Its mission within the French Military Medical Service. Military Medicine, 192, 5:341.