Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:10 AM
MEDICAL GEOLOGY COMES OF AGE
Although the impact of geologic processes and materials on human health has been known for centuries, it has only been during the past several decades that detailed studies have been done to investigate the link between geology and health. Within the geoscience specialties, geographers have been studying the spatial distribution of disease since the later decades of the 19th century. A large volume of literature, along with debate on use of the term medical geography or geographical medicine, is in existence. However, during the past 50 years, geologists began to conduct detailed studies on the relationship between the geochemical nature of an area and incidence of chronic diseases, laying the foundation of medical geology. Great progress has been made during the past 25 years and medical geology has evolved to the point that it is now recognized as a distinct specialty in geoscience. The interdisciplinary nature of the subject should lead to collaborative research programs involving experts from geological, soil, medical, plant, and animal sciences. Meanwhile, some medical professionals have been studying the health impact of global warming and ozone depletion and are advising the health care community to gear up for mitigation of anticipated problems.
Like any other emerging discipline, medical geology is also facing an identity problem. While the broader geosciences community has become reasonably well aware of the importance of this new specialty, it is facing a major challenge in conveying this message to health care professionals. One way in which this can be accomplished is for medical geologists to make a concerted effort to ensure that medical geology is included in the curricula of medical education. Yet another approach would be to maintain on-going communications across the disciplines and aggressively pursuing collaborative research opportunities with physicians, dentists, veterinarians, plant scientists, and other related professionals. The presentation reviews the history and evolution of medical geology, explains the difference between medical geology and geomedicine, summarizes its current status, and discusses future directions. A brief historical account of medical geology courses taught in colleges is also included.