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Tree of Hippocrates Branch Planted at UMass Medical School

Hippocrates Tree UMass
Emmanuel Paraschos, PhD, Vassilis Zannis, PhD, Chancellor Michael Collins and Michael Czech, PhD, stand behind the newly planted branch from an Oriental plane tree on the island of Kos, Greece. Credit: UMass Medical School News

A branch from the Tree of Hippocrates, the father of Medicine, was recently planted at the UMass Chan Medical School campus to inspire creativity and hope.

The Tree of Hippocrates is the plane tree under which, according to legend, Hippocrates of Kos taught his pupils the art of medicine. Paul of Tarsus purportedly taught here as well.

The current tree at Kos is only about 500 years old, with a crown diameter of about 12 meters, and is said to be the largest plane tree in Europe.

It may possibly be a descendant of the original tree which allegedly stood there 2400 years ago, in Hippocrates’ time. The tree has become hollowed out over the years, and some branches are supported by metal scaffolding.

“It is great to have Hippocrates’ legacy here on campus today and well into the future,” Chancellor of UMass Michael F. Collins said.

Hippocrates Tree at UMass is “a symbol of hope”

He welcomed Vassilis I. Zannis, PhD, professor emeritus of cardiovascular medicine, and professor of biochemistry and cell biology at Boston University Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine, and Emmanuel E. Paraschos, PhD, professor of journalism at Emerson College, to UMass Chan for the planting of a branch from the “Tree of Hippocrates” on May 24.

Dr. Zannis orchestrated the propagation of a branch from the plane tree on the island of Kos, Greece, to be planted at UMass Chan.

Zannis said plane trees have a life span of several hundred years. “One may imagine that 500 years from now, this tree may still be standing here at UMass Chan and representing the advances of modern medicine, Hippocrates’ teachings and classic Greek ideals,” he said.

Michael P. Czech, PhD, the Isadore and Fanny Foxman Chair in Medical Research, founding chair and professor emeritus of molecular medicine, worked with Zannis to coordinate the planting of the Hippocrates tree on campus.

“This tree is something we can look back at over the years with pride,” Dr. Czech said. “It is a symbol of hope and a reminder to resist complacency and to keep our creative juices flowing.”

A similar branch from the plane tree on Kos was planted at Boston University in March 2008.

The tree is rooted in the history of medicine and the teachings of Hippocrates.

Born on The island of Kos c. 460 BC, he was the first known physician who believed that diseases were caused by some type of natural action instead of being instigated by the spirits or gods.

In addition to recognizing that disease is not caused by supernatural forces, Hippocrates invented clinical medicine and what we know today as the doctor-patient relationship.

Perhaps most amazingly of all, he was the first known physician to recognize that thoughts and emotions arise in the brain rather than the heart.

Related: Hippocrates on Obesity and the Sedentary Life

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