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Desmond O’Neill

Desmond O’Neill: Singing in the New Year

3 Jan, 17 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015Little in human nature escapes the scrutiny of scholarship, and New Year resolutions are no exception. We tap into a tradition that dates back to Babylonian times. Their new year began in March with the sowing of the crops: in ancient Roman times this shifted to January, associated with Janus, the two faced god who looked into the past and the future.

As much of health and wellbeing depends on willingness to change, New Year resolutions provide a rich focus of study of human behaviour. Most resolutions are about health related issues more…

Desmond O’Neill: Technology and the medical humanities

24 Nov, 16 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015One of the great challenges of progress in the medical humanities is that of time and space. Interested clinicians tend not to work in the arts blocks of universities, and humanities scholars rarely frequent clinical settings.

The hard graft of interdisciplinary research is ever more elusive without the opportunity to mingle, discuss, and challenge. Our university has taken a lead in hosting postgraduate seminars in medical humanities in Ireland. An interesting twist has been to provide a discussant from a different faculty to the speaker to promote interdisciplinary dialogue.  more…

Desmond O’Neill: Mozart in the ballpark

11 Oct, 16 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015A live telecast of The Marriage of Figaro to a baseball stadium from the Kennedy Centre provided a delightful and illuminating synergy with the 2016 conference of the National Centre for Creative Ageing in Washington DC.

After attending the conference’s opening reception at an exhibition of art by older people, we had a short walk to this marvellous cultural mash-up. As dusk descended, a large and diverse crowd filled the bleachers or sat on rugs in the ballpark, carrying trays of French fries and beer. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Ageing—simply complicated

7 Jun, 16 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015Carinthia is a fascinating corner of Austria, formally included in the new Austrian Republic in a plebiscite in 1919 and imbued with the confluence of Austrian, Slovenian, and Italian cultures. Packed with history and culture, it provided rich material for underpinning a keynote lecture for the Austrian Geriatrics and Gerontology Society conference in Villach on how geriatricians approach their own personal future with ageing.

Ageing is a topic best approached through the Microsoft mantra of “think global, act local” at many levels, because there is an ever-present danger of considering that ageing, and its inherent vulnerabilities, is something that happens to other people. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Peak medical students

4 May, 16 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015Asked to do a column on medical education for an Irish newspaper, I was struck by how little professional debate we have had on the extraordinary increase in student intakes in these islands. Traditionally Ireland has had a large number of medical schools proportionate to its population: recent presentations in the Royal Colleges of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons 2016 of Ireland on the centenary of the 1916 rebellion revealed that Irish graduates represented a substantial proportion of the doctors in the Royal Army Medical Corps of the British Army during the First World War. more…

Desmond O’Neill: HIP medicine

14 Apr, 16 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015In the last month I have had two wonderful musical experiences in Dublin, each causing me to reflect on one of the key challenges of medicine, that of getting to the core of what is troubling people who seek medical attention.

Each of the performances was from music ensembles who seek to perform music in a fashion that as closely as possible resembles what the composer would have heard at that the time. Tuning, instruments, and musical styles have changed over the years and what we now hear is substantially different from what listeners in the baroque and classical eras would have heard. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Combating bar stool gerontology

11 Feb, 16 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015One of the greatest challenges for us as we age is “bar stool gerontology.” For most complex subjects—nuclear physics, molecular biology, or philosophy—most of us recognise that some learning and education are required to grasp their fundamentals.

Yet despite the fact that we are at our most complex in later life, it remains acceptable in many walks of life to ignore advances in research on ageing—presumably on the basis of, “Sure, we all know what ageing is.”

A staggering example of this gerontological illiteracy was the recent pronouncement by the head of acute care for NHS England that loneliness was driving older people into emergency departments. more…

Desmond O’Neill on Star Wars: The Force Awakens—and matures

23 Dec, 15 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015Exams and the pre Christmas rush notwithstanding, a triple-line party whip was in force within the family for the midnight first screening of Star Wars, The Force Awakens. Sitting in the back row of a packed, expectant, and goodnatured cinema, I was struck by the number of contemporaries also attending with adult and teen children.

They, like me, almost certainly had vivid memories of the “real” first Star Wars movie of 38 years ago, screened when I was a student in first med. A histology practical took a severe hit as a goodly proportion of the class went to a matinée showing of the movie, and light sabre battles with bicycle lamps in the darkened locker room were the order of the day for weeks thereafter. more…

Desmond O’Neill: The Healing Touch

20 Oct, 15 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015Although not as grand as the Museum Quarter of Hapsburg Vienna, Dublin has a proportionately rich concentration of museums, galleries, and Victorian heritage alongside Trinity College Dublin, our own mini Museum Quarter. The analogy is not entirely without basis as both concentrations arose in the context of large empires, and elements of both have taken some time to adapt to new forms of existence within relatively small democracies.

In Ireland this change was largely entwined with the recalibration of the status and relationships of an Anglo-Irish and largely Protestant establishment within a new state, which from the 1930s assumed a markedly different theocratic direction to the existing orthodoxy. Many of these institutions went into a form of inward looking hibernation for a number of decades, emerging eventually strengthened and revitalised by the fusion of traditions in a pluralist society. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Welcoming the new ageing in a global context

12 Oct, 15 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015

Expenditure in older populations is an investment, not a cost, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)

With relatively little fanfare, the World Report on Ageing and Health—one of the most important WHO documents in recent years—was launched in New York to coincide with the UN International Day of Older Persons on 1 October. It represents a historic change of emphasis for an organisation whose focus in the past centred largely on infectious disease and childhood.

However, in a changing world with reduced child mortality and a major shift in disease patterns, non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and traffic accidents) now represent the major threat to global health. more…

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