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Tree of Hippocrates being planted to honor Father of Medicine and inspire physicians of today

October 05, 2023 4:00 PM

The current tree at the site where Hippocrates once taught his medical students is believed to be about 500 years old. Seeds and cuttings from the tree have been shared worldwide. (Stock photo)


The Tree of Hippocrates (Platanus orientalis), located in Cos, Greece is said to be the tree under which Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, taught his students over 2,000 years ago. The current tree at that site, thought to be only about 500 years old, is likely a descendent of the original tree - a species of sycamore.

Seeds and cuttings from this tree in Cos have been spread throughout the world; the University of Florida has maintained its tree since 1969, when cuttings were first brought to the school. Since their tree is now growing old, the horticulturists at Wilmot Botanical Gardens at the University of Florida College of Medicine have made gifts of cuttings to ensure the propagation of the tree.

C. Craig Tisher, MD, former Dean of the UF College of Medicine and Emeritus Professor, currently serves as the Director of Wilmot Botanical Gardens. As a fellow nephrologist and colleague of L. Lee Hamm, MD, Dean of Tulane University School of Medicine, Dr. Tisher felt that a cutting gifted to Dr. Hamm would be in good hands at Tulane. It arrived in early February 2023 and has been tended to indoors in the Murphy Building.

But where could it be planted permanently? The tree would ultimately grow to thirty feet in height with a shallow root system requiring a large green space. Additionally, it was felt that the location chosen should be associated with the training of learners who care for patients. Emily Sedgwick, MD, Chief Medical Officer of University Medical Center, was approached with the idea of planting the tree at University Medical Center, and with the assistance of Bernard Flores, MBA, CHFM, Executive VP of Operations, a large circular space was identified at the Tower Entrance along Cleveland Avenue.

It was also decided that the area selected should undergo special landscaping to recognize and promote the ideals of patient care as exemplified by Hippocrates and recited in his oath by students of medicine. Since the planting, landscaping, bench, and plaque would require funding, The Tulane School of Medicine Peterman-Prosser Endowed Fund has generously supplied the financial support for this project. The fund resolves β€œto expose students of the science-oriented disciplines to the life-enriching and personality-rounding humanities for the benefit of their families, their patients, their clients, their communities, and themselves.”

At Tulane University School of Medicine, we are proud to work with UMC and our other LCMC partners on this collaborative project, which will offer inspiration and historical insight to all healthcare trainees. To that end, the dedication ceremony for the Tree of Hippocrates Circle will be held on October 17, 2023, at 10:00 a.m.

It is important to advocate for humanism in medicine and recognize the power of touch in diagnosis and healing; we are grateful that the Tree of Hippocrates Circle will afford all learners the opportunity to pause and consider his sustained contributions to centuries of patient care.

Elma LeDoux, MD
Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs