Scholarly Connection

Famous discoveries by medical students

Did you know that the discovery of heparin, insulin, the sinoatrial node, pancreaticobiliary sphincter and ether anaesthesia can all be attributed to medical students?

In a 2008 article published in ANZ Journal of Surgery, Mark D. Stringer and Omid Ahmadi examine several medical breakthroughs that resulted from medical students’ research. The authors remark, quite pointedly, that opportunities for research by medical students in an increasingly crowded undergraduate curriculum need to be preserved.

An abstract of the article is below. To read the article in its entirety, click here.  


Heparin, insulin, the sinoatrial node and ether anaesthesia are just some of the major discoveries made by medical students, all of which have had a huge impact on the practice of surgery.

ANZ-Journal-Cover.JPGThis paper explores the breadth and depth of some of these talented individuals and their extraordinary contributions to medicine. Some enjoyed brilliant careers but others became embroiled in damaging disputes about priority or were overtaken by illness or personal problems. Regardless of their fate, their contributions are a potent reminder of what can be achieved by gifted and determined medical students undertaking a period of basic scientific or clinical research.

‘Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.’ – Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893–1986), Hungarian biochemist and winner of the 1937 Nobel Prize for Medicine.