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Health of the nation

The University has an important role to play in promoting and protecting the health of the nation. This is most obvious through the work of the Schools in our College of Medicine, Biology, Life and Health Sciences which undertake internationally distinguished biomedical, clinical and health services research and provide professional education and training in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry, nursing and the allied professions.

However the scope and importance of the University’s all-Wales health care role extends far beyond this and many other Schools of the University make important contributions.

Welsh Medical History

From earliest times Wales has enjoyed an honoured place in the history of British Medicine.

In Llangian churchyard in the Llyn peninsula there is an ancient stone dating from the fifth or sixth centuries commemorating Melus, the earliest British doctor whose name we know. Dating back to the 13th century generations of the ‘Physicians of Myddfai’ made a remote Carmarthenshire village a centre of research and healing centuries before the advent of modern medicine. Buried in Cilgerran church, Pembrokeshire, is Thomas Phaer, author of the ‘Boke of Chyldren’ (1541), the first work in English on childcare.

Nearer the present day Wales is proud to acknowledge as its own Beti Cadwaladr who, late in life, qualified as a nurse and performed deeds of heroism during the Crimean War, and Dr William Price, who was not only Wales's greatest eccentric but was also an eminent surgeon and the man whose actions led to the legalisation of cremation in this country.

Aneurin Bevan, inspired by the egalitarian principles on which the Tredegar Working Men’s Medical Aid Society had been based, applied socialist zeal and Welsh determination to create the National Health Service in 1948, the most far-reaching piece of social legislation in British history.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost of the Wales College of Medicine, Biology, Health and Life Sciences convened, in November 2002, the first of what have become regular meetings of the Medical History Forum, attended by 34 people, professional historians, doctors, museum curators, archivists and enthusiastic amateurs, all fired with the conviction that the History of Medicine, particularly Welsh Medicine, deserves a higher profile than it currently enjoys, not least among the general public, and that strategies need to be formulated to ensure that medical archives and artefacts of historical importance are preserved for posterity.

In the long run it is hoped that developments at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary will address some of these aspirations, but a number of practical short-term initiatives were proposed, including a possible one-day conference celebrating the central role of Wales as the birthplace and guardian of the National Health Service.

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