Annual physical examination becomes commonplace with regular examination of lungs, heart, uterus and colon.

Standard Physical


Wilkins, Crick and Watson elucidate the 3D structure of DNA. The discovery launches an intense quest for the genetic determinants of human disease. Over the next 50 years, critical laboratory discoveries would fuel the understanding of how cells replicate and how DNA’s encoded information determines the proteins that cells synthesize. Scientists will discover that subtle DNA variation accounts for much of human individuality, and that subtle DNA damage and replication errors underlie many serious diseases.


Annual physical becomes commonplace with regular examination of lungs, heart, uterus and colon.


Mammography is added to the annual physical examination for breast cancer detection.


The use of ultrasound imaging technology to examine the inner structures of the human body begins. This revolutionizes obstetrical care. It also provides a radiation-free window into the structure and function of most body organs, reducing surgical explorations and providing a powerful disease surveillance tool.


Neil Armstrong’s step onto the Moon surface, little more than a decade after the advent of the space age, presages a giant leap in materials and microelectronic technologies. They will, in turn, fuel the development of communication and computer systems and sophisticated medical imaging devices.


Magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography dramatically change the practice of diagnostic medicine. Capable of revealing the details of human anatomy, easily and quickly performed, they would become the mainstay of medical investigative imaging. Valuable for diagnosis and assessing responses to treatment, these cross-sectional imaging modalities, used judiciously, are ideal for presymptomatic surveillance.


Development of the modern microprocessor, and advanced production automation, make computers accessible to most, prompting large scale interconnectivity and driving the information age. With greater processing power, medicine would eventually be able to individualize disease treatment. The ability to customize disease prevention would also develop.

In 40 years, technology advanced through the Space Age and the Information Age, developing tools with important applications in medicine. And amazing scientific advances increased our understanding of disease, fostering revolutionary treatments for heart disease and cancer. We became much better at solving medical problems once they became apparent. Yet these same advances in medicine failed to find their way into the Standard Physical over those four decades, which changed very little since its inception. The concept of seeking out problems before symptoms developed remained primitive.


The Modern Physical is Born

Over the past two decades at the David Drew Clinic in Chevy Chase, Maryland, medical scientists, computer specialists and mathematicians from NIH, MIT and Berkeley coalesced in earnest to develop a new disease surveillance process designed to take advantage of technological advances. We knew from the outset that the process needed to be affordable, time-efficient, non-invasive, and with a minimum radiation exposure. It had to be individually optimized, predictive, intelligent and adaptive.

And, of course, it had to work.

The Modern Physical


The Modern Physical begins. Examination includes intensive surveillance for cancer, heart disease, and stroke as well as bone density measurement in women and men.


Using modern cross-sectional imaging techniques, surveillance for lung and brain cancer is added.


Groundbreaking heart artery scans non-invasively reveal the extent of plaque buildup, greatly improving coronary risk assessment.


After a decade of labor, using sophisticated automation and supercomputer data processing, the entire human genome is sequenced, for the first time cataloging the genetic information in which the human form is encoded. Quickly, it became possible to identify genetic variants implicated in specific diseases. Prediction of future disease risk based on an individual’s genetic profile became possible.


Non-invasive, radiation-free cranial artery imaging is added, able to detect silent brain aneurysms and blood vessel malformations that can lead to cerebral hemorrhage.


Genetic testing is added, helping to detect increased risk of serious diseases, including breast and colon cancer.


Cardiovascular risk monitoring is intensified. Additional risk factors are measured, including homocysteine, C-reactive protein, lipoprotein(a) and cholesterol particle size.


Genetic testing is expanded. Selective testing for several additional medical conditions begins.

Central to the success of The Modern Physical is recognition that early detection is key to surviving many serious conditions. And early detection requires looking with a keen eye. Unlike the standard cursory exam that has changed little over the past half century, during the past 20 years we’ve progressively empowered The Modern Physical with cutting-edge surveillance techniques to spot problems early and keep you healthy.

The Modern Physical