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Humanities at the Cutting Edge: an AMH Conference with sun, sea and surf as added extras: Truro 5-7th July 2010

10 Jun, 10 | by Deborah Kirklin

The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, one of the UK’s newer medical schools, has got a lot of things going for it, including its location in the glorious west country. A fact that won’t escape the notice of those lucky enough to be attending the  annual conference of the Association of Medical Humanities this July. Given the many attractions of the two sites for the conference- Truro and Penzance- it’s a wonder that delegates will manage to drag themselves  from the delights of coastal scenery and local hospitality and into the lecture hall. more…

Believing Without Seeing

11 Jan, 10 | by Ayesha Ahmad

Esref Armagan was born blind in Ankara, Turkey. He has now become a famous artist due to his sheer talent and also due to certain significant and unusual reasons. His art displays the colour, vividness, light, dark, imagination and perspective that we are used to considering as the gifts of sight. Esref is changing the meaning of what it is to see the world.

Whilst taking part in a documentary with the University of Toronto, he exclaimed: “why would I want to see when I can see so much more with my hands?” These words fall upon us at a time where medicine is advancing through producing images of our body that otherwise we are blind to, such as fMRI, X-Rays, CT scans. We are looking into how we can perceive the human body in its finest detail. Our direction of what it means to achieve the fullest understanding of the internal physical world of the body is engaged with finding what is hidden. more…

In Sickness and In Health

10 Dec, 09 | by Ayesha Ahmad

Crossing borders always presents the potential for a hold-up. When I prepared to cross the border from Macedonia (or Skopje if you are Greek), into the tiny nation of Kosovo, preparation was the key. I had one mission: to visit the hospital in the capital, Pristina. I travelled by car to the border where a contact of mine in Macedonia had arranged for another car to meet me and drive me across to the other side. I would be travelling with an ethnic Albanian who was well-versed in dealing with the officials. Macedonia has experienced its war wounds in recent years but in Kosovo these wounds are healing but very visable. Lines of hardship tell the story of the past across many faces that I saw. more…

Establishing a Medical Humanities in Nepal with the help of a FAIMER Fellowship by Ravi Shankar

7 Dec, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

In this guest posting, Dr Ravi Shankar tells us how a FAIMAR Fellowship help him to develop and deliver a medical humanities curriculum in Nepal. Ravi writes…

Dr. Badyal, my good friend during my postgraduate residency e-mailed me in late January 2007 informing about a FAIMER fellowship in South Asia. At that time my knowledge and ideas about FAIMER were nebulous. I knew that it was an American organization involved in international medical education. more…

MH’s Jane Austen Research Paper Universally Acknowledged

5 Dec, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

The latest issue of Medical Humanities, published on December 1st, features an original paper in which KG White argues that tuberculosis, and not Addison’s Disease, may have killed Jane Austen, one of the world’s favourite authors. The popular appeal of stories about Austen was evidenced by the rapid take up of this story by the world’s press with newspaper and broadcast media keen to report this latest twist in the tale of an altogether remarkable women.


Medicine Unboxed Conference: October 10th 2009

15 Aug, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

This one day conference is the brainchild of Dr Sam Guglani, a clinical oncologist who specialises in the treatment of patients with breast, lung and brain cancers. You might think this would be enough to keep him busy, but working with people at such a vulnerable and formative time in their lives has clearly left him wondering how to best understand and encapsulate all the things his patients have taught him and that so rarely appear in medical textbooks and research papers. more…

Homelessness: what’s the right response?

13 Jul, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

Over the weekend, mixed with the harrowing coverage of the loss of soldiers’ lives in Afghanistan, and for news cycle reasons I’ve inadequate information to understand, the fate of London’s homeless population prior to the 2012 Olympics was discussed on television and in print. The organising committee of the London Games had apparently committed itself to ensuring that no one would be sleeping rough on London’s streets by the time the world’s elite athletes arrived. The question of the weekend was whether this goal would be achieved and at what price, both economic and in terms of human dignity. more…

Medicine, Literature, Art and Music: Royal Society of Medicine, London 1st April 2009.

18 Mar, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

If you’re in the London region you might be interested in this symposium on medicine and the humanities. Focussing on literature, art and music it features some excellent speakers. In keeping with other RSM events, lively debate is sure to follow.

Venue: The Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 0AE

Speakers to include: Stephen Golding, Aileen Adams, Richard Hull and Anne Hargreaves.

Book review: The Spare Room by Helen Garner

27 Feb, 09 | by Giskin Day


Helen Garner’s The Spare Room (published by Canongate) is an exploration of the emotional and practical turmoil engendered by caring for someone who is grasping at straws to evade the terminal truth of their illness.


The narrative probes a friendship between two feisty women when it is taken to new levels of intensity by a clash in ideology. Helen (who deliberately shares the author’s name) starts off with noble intentions. She prepares her spare room with due consideration for longstanding-friend Nicola’s feng shui inclinations, hoping to strike just the right balance between practicality and homeliness. Nicola, riven with cancer, is coming to Sydney to spend a small fortune on alternative therapy at the Theodore Institute. Predictably, the Institute proves fantastically adept at sales talk but medically deeply dubious. Nicola emerges from intravenous Vitamin C treatment and ozone cupping weakened and wracked with excruciating pain, but she holds out against morphine until she – and, more particularly, Helen – can bear it no longer. Nicola is coaxed into reengaging with orthodox medicine by her outraged and exhausted friend. more…

Henderson’s Equation: embracing science, facilitating human flourishing

29 Dec, 08 | by Deborah Kirklin

I’m fond of referring, in talks and in discussions about medical professionalism, to the midnight meal. It’s a metaphor that I borrow from Dr Jerome Lowenstein, a friend and colleague who wrote an essay of the same name. In that essay he recalls a time when the medical team would meet in the hospital restaurant, in the middle of the night, to deal with the emotional leftovers of the day. With shift working, and an increasingly busy and technological approach to medicine, there is all too often neither time nor space for a midnight meal. He suggests that medical humanities might offer an alternative way, create an alternative space, to pick over the remains of the day and so be ready to face another day.

The essay is simply and beautifully written, and so I was pleased to be given a copy of Dr Lowenstein’s first novel, Henderson’s Equation, to read. Pleased but also a little daunted, because I have to admit that physiology was never my strong point. more…

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