AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

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AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. April 2000, Volume 2, Number 4.

Profile of a Role Model

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Barry Marshall, MD, and Robin Warren, MD

The journal recognizes two Australian physician researchers who first made the discovery that stomach ulcers are caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria.

Nearly 20 years ago, 2 Australian physician researchers made a discovery that initially was widely ridiculed in the medical community. In the January 1983 issue of the British medical journal The Lancet, Australian physicians Barry Marshall and Robin Warren claimed that stomach ulcers were caused by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori and not by excessive acidity in the stomach.

To test his theory, Dr. Marshall ingested the bacteria. He then documented both the formation of his stomach ulcers and their cure following treatment with a combination of antibiotics and stomach-acid-neutralizing medicines. Although many initially thought of the bacteria-ulcer link idea as foolish, by the mid-1990s, a NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement on Helicobacter pylori in Peptic Ulcer Disease concluded that there is indeed a strong association between ulcers and bacteria and recommended using antibiotics as the preferred treatment. At the time, only a small fraction of patients with ulcers were being treated with antibiotics. By 1996, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first antibiotic specifically for ulcers. Today, treating ulcers with antibiotics is standard therapy.

For the tenacity of Drs Marshall and Warren who remained committed to their scientific evidence despite controversy and attacks, we are pleased to present them with the Virtual Mentor Award for being exemplary role models in medicine.

Related Articles

  • Doyle E. A discovery from down under breeds controversy. ACP Observer. 1995. Available at: American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine Web site. Accessed on March 20, 2000.
  • Qureshi WA, Graham DY. Diagnosis and management fo Helicobacter pylori infection. Clin Cornerstone. 1999;1:18-28.
  • Hirai Y, Hayashi S, Shimomura H, Oguma K, Yokata K. Association of Helicobacter pylori with gastroduodenal diseases. Jpn J Infect Dis. 1999;52:183-197.
  • Gold BD. Current therapy for Helicobacter pylori infection in children and adolescents. Can J Gastroenterol. 1999;13:571-579.
  • Lewis R. Surprise Cause of Gastritis Revolutionizes Ulcer Treatment. FDA Consumer. December 1994; Vol 28. Available at: FDA Consumer Magazine. Accessed on March 20, 2000.
  • Lynch NA. Helicobacter pylori and ulcers: a paradigm revised. Available at: The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Web site. Accessed on March 20, 2000.

We invite students to nominate a physician role model who, for them, has been an outstanding teacher by example. Students might, for example, describe in detail a single experience with a role model that was particularly meaningful to them, or describe a series of patient-related experiences with a role model that influenced their ethical development. In describing their experiences, we encourage students to examine why it was significant to them and how it may influence their professional behavior.

Each month, we will select profiles of role models to post in this space, and those selected will receive a gift of appreciation.

Nominations should include the following information:

1. Student's name, address, phone, e-mail, and medical school
2. Role model's name, title, and institution
3. Description of an experience (500-800 words)

Send your profiles to: Audiey Kao, MD, PhD, Institute for Ethics, AMA, 515 North State, Chicago, IL 60610

The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.