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Desmond O’Neill

Desmond O’Neill: Combatting rigidity in medicine

8 Apr, 14 | by BMJ

desmond_oneillHigh quality films for children have a special place in our cultural landscape, an appeal which even embraces the medical humanities. To reach beyond children to the adults in their entourage requires a sure touch for tapping into the universal across the lifespan. In addition, many of the underlying fables are vehicles for deep and complex messages.

As teased out in Bruno Bettelheim’s remarkable Uses of Enchantment, the brooding themes of abandonment, death, witches, and injuries may allow children to come to terms with their fears and conflicts, particularly with parents and authority, in remote symbolic terms. more…

Desmond O’Neill on the power of cinema in discussing medical humanities

20 Feb, 14 | by BMJ

desmond_oneillOne of the pleasures of academic medicine, and a salve for the gentle disorganisation of Irish medical schools, is the initiative, enthusiasm, and broad ranging interests of the medical students and trainees. A recent taste of this was a play on anorexia from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival hosted by medical students at Trinity College Dublin. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Transport and health

3 Feb, 14 | by BMJ

desmond_oneillThe Goldfinch, the eagerly awaited third novel of Donna Tartt, featured on many of our Christmas reading lists. As I devoured this wonderful repositioning of the Dickensian novel into the 21st century—with drug consumption taking the place of gin palaces—little did I imagine that it would also provide a fascinating prelude to my annual visit to the US Transportation Research Board (TRB) in Washington DC. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Food for thought

6 Dec, 13 | by BMJ

desmond_oneillMy knowledge of eating disorders stems less from my medical training than from vicarious insights into their ravages in the milieu of my teenage and young adult daughters. Yet not infrequently on post-take ward rounds I encounter those affected and am generally struck by an inarticulacy on both sides, and a mismatch between the medical setting and a complex and personal world of image, identity and anomie.

So I was delighted, if uncertain of my credentials, to be invited by our medical student society  to participate in a post-performance discussion of a play based on eating disorders, Close to You . My partner in crime, along with the author/performer Jennie Eggleton and director Anna Simpson, was Prof Jim Lucey, an articulate, entertaining and insightful psychiatrist and commentator. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Four helicopters and a string quartet

16 Oct, 13 | by BMJ

Desmond O'NeillUnlike last year, there was not a formal cultural event at this year’s European geriatric medicine congress. The organising committee may rightly have considered this superfluous with the glories of Venice at our doorstep. Indeed, large numbers of geriatricians were observed garnering informal extra-mural CPD at the many locations across the island displaying the wonderful late-life creativity of Titian,Tintoretto, and Bellini.

But culture takes many forms, and in a delightful expression of the Italian phrase “a tavola non si invecchia” (one doesn’t age at the table) there was a droll and insightful presentation at the opening session on “luxury ageing” by Arrigo Cipriani, the doyen of the celebrated Harry’s Bar, home of the other Bellini (prosecco and peach purée) and carpaccio. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Clinical glasshouses and stones

2 Oct, 13 | by BMJ

Desmond O'NeillOne of the positive aspects of working in smaller hospitals in Ireland is the professional mingling that takes place in local clinical societies. Living and working in a smaller pond means that consultants and GPs tend to know each other better. The mutual sympathy engendered for the challenges of working in other sectors of the fragmented Irish health services is a nice response to the worldwide issue of resolving tensions between primary and secondary care.

It is very different in Dublin, where often hospital consultants, particularly those largely engaged in public practice, and GPs might not recognise each other if they passed on the street. Activities in CPD have largely diverged along specialty lines, with little by way of cross-fertilisation between, say, the small-group activities of the Irish College of General Practitioners and the postgraduate activities of physicians. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Striking doctors and a cruel cut

24 Sep, 13 | by BMJ

Desmond O'NeillThe strike was so much more straightforward in 1987. I was then a trainee member of the Council of the Irish Medical Organization and our task was to change an overtime rate of half of the hourly rate to one of at least time and a quarter, thereby removing the employer incentive for virtually limitless overtime.

Even in the somewhat less relaxed professional climate of the time, most consultants were sympathetic, the public even more so, and apart from special cases, the strike was all-out for 24 hours – and successful. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Elysium—an effective Trojan horse for Obamacare and the social gradient

4 Sep, 13 | by BMJ

Desmond O'Neill“Just enjoy the film, dad, you don’t always have to write about it!” is a familiar refrain from my family on our sporadic outings to the movies. Yet cinema was the great art form of the 20th century and this century is continuing the same way, according to Philip French, the masterly film critic of the Observer who retired this month after over 50 years in the post.

The broad appeal and high profile of the medium provides a fantastic opportunity for commentary, powered by the cocktail of entertainment, aesthetics, and information that characterizes good art. more…

Desmond O’Neill: A tale of three cities—geriatric medicine in Australia

4 Jul, 13 | by BMJ

Desmond O'NeillSome minds improve by travel, wrote the nineteenth century poet and humorist, Thomas Hood: others, rather, resemble copper wire, or brass, which get the narrower by going farther. And so it was with the spirit of keen metallurgical inquiry that I stress tested this theorem on a recent ten day visiting professorship with the Australian and New Zealand Geriatric Medicine Society.

Wonderfully hosted by my colleagues, my first visit to the Antipodes involved three cities—Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane—each with a very distinct character, although sharing the bonus of almost free bike hire (akin to the “Boris bikes” in London) in each. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Optimal ageing and the midnight sun

14 Jun, 13 | by BMJ

Desmond O'NeillHelsinki in summer is a delight, its streetscapes of Russian influenced architecture illuminated and lifted by the interplay of the midnight sun and the ever present sea. The occasion was the triennial joint congress of five Finnish societies for research in ageing, a vibrant meeting of over 800 scientists, researchers, and clinicians.

Once again, I was reminded of why meetings and congresses make sense, even with all the video- and tele-conferencing possibilities open to us. The interaction of delegates, the emergence of fresh ideas, the sense of community, the human interest, and in particular humour, are a formidable counterblast to the inevitable routine and the grind of research and practice. more…

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