The major advances seen in medicine over the past 100 years were achieved thanks to new scientific knowledge. The SAMS seeks to ensure that knowledge deriving from natural sciences and biology, as well as that acquired in psychosocial disciplines and the humanities, is appropriately understood, applied and extended in the context of teaching, research and patient care.
Basic scientific research has made it possible to develop treatments for diseases such as cancer, diabetes and schizophrenia. Epidemiological studies have helped to identify risk factors and to develop prevention strategies. Nonetheless, a degree of scepticism with regard to increasingly «technologised» medicine has led to the desire for a more «human» form of medicine based on a «holistic approach».
If the results of medical research are to be applied in clinical practice, physicians must be able to follow the progress of research and to realistically assess its potential relevance for medicine. Physicians practising at the bedside must also understand the language of science and contribute, as objectively and effectively as possible, to the flow of information from the bench to the bedside and back again.
There is, however, more to science than the exact sciences. While research in the natural sciences remains crucial for progress in medicine, the social sciences and humanities help to provide a better understanding of the context of patient care and to improve the quality of life.
Various aspects of this topic were explored in the SAMS position paper «Medicine as a science» (2009). This publication had its origins in the report on «Aims and tasks of medicine at the beginning of the 21st century», issued five years earlier by the SAMS as part of the project «The future of medicine in Switzerland».