Medical symbols in practice: Myths vs reality

Anil Shetty, Shraddha Shetty, Oliver Dsouza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The caduceus is the popular symbol of medicine. However, premier health organizations and regulatory bodies such as the World Health Organization and the Medical Council of India use a different symbol- the rod of Asclepius in their logo. There is an increasing awareness and recognition that the caduceus is a false symbol and has no historical substantiation as an emblem of medicine. Many academic and health institutions in the western hemisphere have changed their logo as a consequence. There are other symbols of medicine which are similarly misunderstood. Objectives: The purpose of the study is to assess the knowledge of common medical symbols among doctors and medical students. Materials and Methods: Three hundred doctors and medical students were assessed on their knowledge about the Rx symbol, the Red Cross emblem and the true representative emblem of medicine. Logos and emblems of elite medical colleges and medical associations were also studied. Results: Only 6% of doctors were aware that the Rod of Asclepius is the true symbol of healing. Knowledge of the significance of the Rx symbol and the origin of the Red Cross emblem was 55% and 39%. Conclusion: There is very little awareness about the rod of Asclepius and most institutions have adopted a logo based on the caduceus. Awareness of the true origins and the symbolism of the emblems is lacking in the medical fraternity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 01-01-2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Biochemistry


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