Wednesday, November 30, 2005


ICSM Light Opera Society are proud to present this year's production of Oklahoma! There is a phenomenal amount of talent from the medical school in this musical featuring the directorial guidance of David Bonsall and Natasha Clunies-ross and the rest of the crew. The performances are from Monday 5th to Friday 9th December from 7pm at Wilson House, Paddington. Tickets are on sale now; there is a dedicated team on campus or email for reservations.

If anything, come and see me play a dodgy Persian peddler (I almost don't have to act!) and you can point and laugh. Plus you can join the cast afterwards for (a few) drinks in one of London's drinking establishments! What more could you want?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Review: 'When You Cure Me'

Last week a group of us went to see 'When You Cure Me' at the Bush Theatre in west London. It was the premier of the play, written by Jack Thorne. The action takes place in the teenage bedroom of Rachel (played by Morven Christie) who finds herself partially paralysed after a traumatic event. I don't want to give too much away here as the premise of the play sounds very off-putting, but it is definitely worth seeing for anyone interested in patient perspectives of trauma and the burden it places on friends and families. Rachel's boyfriend, Peter, desperately wants to help, but to what extent must he bend to Rachel's vacillating and contradictory whims?

The intimacy of the Bush Theatre and the realism of the production (be warned: involving bodily functions), combined with emotional intensity, makes the role of Rachel a tall order. Christie delivers on this very convincingly. The teenage angst of Peter is well portrayed by Samuel Barnett. Gwynth Strong (Cassandra of 'Fools and Horses' fame) plays Rachel's well-meaning mother (although one kept expecting her to come out with 'Oh, Rodneigh!').

The action forces the audience to move between various points of view. Although Rachel's situation demands sympathy, her exasperating behaviour shows that there are limits to what victims (of crime or illness) can reasonably expect of those around them. According to this interview in Time Out, the play was informed by the writer's experience of being bed-ridden with the dermatological disease cholinergic urticaria. It runs until 17 December. More details here.

Postively Red Debate TODAY

'This house believes the promotion of abstinence is themost effective way to curb the global AIDS pandemic'

Debate with:
Dr Roger Ingham (University of Southhampton)
William Meara (US Embassy)

6.30pm, Mech Eng Room 342, Imperial College, SW7 2AZ FREE

'Meet the Robinsons'

Tomight is the first night of 'Meet the Robertsons' -- a series of improvised dramas exploring personal conflicts and beliefs about health and illness within three generations of one family of Caribbean heritage. Each drama will be followed by an audience discussion. To reserve a FREE place email or call 0207848 8418. Bookings must be reserved in advance andplaces are limited. Click here for more information on these dramas and the issues they are tackling.

First night: 'Michael and Lyndon': A drama exploring living donor organ donation
29 November 2005, 17:30: Robens Suite, 29th Floor Guy's Tower, Guy's Hospital.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thoroughly Modern Medics

I caught the tail end of this TV programme on BBC 2 this afternoon. It follows a group of third year medical students for a week in a 1950's style hospital, having to learn to practice medicine the traditional way. Unfortunately I believe it was the last in the series. Did anyone else see it?

I'm suprised the students (more info here - they were from King's) subjected themselves to public humiliation. I'm even more surprised that patients did though...

World AIDS Week 26th November - 2nd December

World AIDS Week - Positively Red@ Imperial
Medsin-Imperial are running a week of events to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS :

Sat 26/11 'People, Possibilities, Promises'
Conference chaired by Prof Gazzard, Chairman of the British HIV Association,
Conference covers 'Society and Culture', 'Treatment Access' and 'Projects in the Developing World'
9am-4pm, Drewe Lecture Theatre, Charing Cross Hospital, W6 8RF , £3 students, £5 staff

Mon 28/11, 'Satan and Simon DeSoto'
Tues 29/11
Play by Ted Sod, Produced by IC DramSoc
7pm, Reynolds Bar, Charing Cross Hospital , £4

Tues 29/11 'This house believes the promotion of abstinence is the
most effective way to curb the global AIDS pandemic'
Debate with Dr Roger Ingham (University of Southhampton), and William Meara (US Embassy)
6.30pm, Mech Eng Room 342, Imperial College, FREE

Thurs 1/12 'Reflections'
Vigil with music and song
7pm, Queens Lawn, Imperial College, FREE

Fri 2/12 'Paint the Reynolds Red'
Fundraising Party with Cyan Jazz Band and Funkology Break Dancers
8pm, Reynolds Bar, Charing Cross Hospital, £3 in advance, £4 on the door Oly: 07709566752

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Maternataxi Poem

There is an interesting article on 'Maternataxis' and a mildly irreverent but nonetheless amusing poem written by two ambulance crewmen on the subject over at Nee-Naw. Original website 'Through The Eyes of an EMT' is here.

An Inspector Calls

ICSM Drama Society are putting on what has been called a "fantastic" adaptation of J. B. Priestley's critically acclaimed play, "An Inspector Calls". Directed by Mona Salih-Abdulrahman, and featuring talent from across the medical school, this is definitely one not to be missed.

The play is on from Wednesday 23rd - Friday 25th November at The Union Concert Hall, Beit Quad, South Kensington from 7:30pm.

Check out the trailer here!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

World AIDS Conference - 26th Nov

People, Possibilities and Promises

Conference of Imperial College AIDS awareness week

Saturday 26th November: 9am - 4pm
Drewe Lecture Theatre, Reynolds Building, Charing Cross Hospital, London W6 8RF

Chaired by Prof. BRIAN GAZZARD
Consultant Physician & Research Director of HIV/GUM, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital; Current Chairman of the British HIV Association

Society and Culture
Russia and Injecting Drug use: The social and political context of an HIV epidemic and its prevention
Dr. NICK THEOBALD: Stigma and Association with Taboo
Ms. AMANDA ELY (HIV-Social Work): Stigma and Challenges Faced by HIV + Children and Young People

Treatment Access
Ms. ROWAN HARVEY (Terrence Higgens):
Living with HIV in the UK today
Dr. MUN-YEE TUNG: Current Treatment Options
Dr. RICHARD ASHCROFT: Ethics of Treatment Access

The Challenge of Treatment Provision in South Africa
Dr. GARETH TUDOR WILLIAMS: Rolling out antiretrovirals for children - facts meet fiction
Dr. HERMIONE LYALL: The Challenge of Treatment of HIV+ children
Dr. SAM ALLEN: Treatment Access Programme in Botswana

Projects in the Developing World
NIKI LEE (Zisize)
Charity establishment in South Africa
Dr. RHONA MACDONALD (MSF):Overseas Development Clinician Experiences of Projects combating HIV-AIDS
Ms. FLICK THORLEY (Nursing)/ Dr. CHLOE ORKIN Establishing Project in Botswana

Projects with student involvement [Medical Students, Engineers Without Borders]

Tickets: £5 waged £3 unwaged with free buffet lunch
All profits go to Kenyan Community Education Charity: ICODEI (details on website)
Seats limited, to book your place email
Any further queries contact Oly: 07709566752.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Chart success for hospice project

One of the most successful enterprises in Medical Humanities has been the Rosetta Life project, which works with hospice patients to produce art of all kinds. The Rosetta Requiem focuses on music. Here is a press release on one of the songs. Go here now to download the song and support this very worthwhile project.

We Laughed at number 15 in the UK pop charts

'We Laughed' entered the UK pop singles chart at number 11 last week and is still holding its place in the charts in its second week - number15. The song had its first airing on Jeremy Vine's BBC Radio 2 programme on 20 September, prompting an immediate response from listeners wanting to know how to get hold of a copy of the song. It is written by Billy Bragg and Maxine Edgington, a hospice user from Trimar Hospice, Weymouth and was produced as part of the Rosetta Life song cycle, Rosetta Requiem, funded by Culture Online. It celebrates the love between Maxine and her teenage daughter, Jess, and isinspirational as a legacy from a mother for her daughter.

We have no commercial backing for the song and rely on word of mouth tokeep the single in the charts. We need to sell another 1000 cds tomake the top ten. If you have not yet bought a copy of the cd, pleasedo so now so we can keep Maxine's song in the charts and Trimar Hospicein the news! We Laughed is also available as a download from iTunes and other music download stores. See our Home page,, for links to CD and download online stores.

Billy Bragg described how the songs came about: "The three songs on this CD are the product of a series of song-writing workshops that I conducted at the Trimar Hospice in Weymouth during February 2005. I was invited to take part in theproject by Rosetta Life, a charity dedicated to helping those facingterminal illness to share their experiences through the medium of art, poetry, film or song. "Every Friday morning for six weeks, I worked with half a dozen women who came to the hospice for palliative care as they fought against theeffects of breast cancer. After a couple of weeks of talking about the process of song-writingand a few singalongs, the ‘Friday Girls’ began opening up to the ideaof writing a song. Maxine Edgington had the clearest idea of what shewanted to do. In our first one-on-one session, she pulled a framed picture out of her bag andsaid ‘Look, I’ve been given six months to live. I don’t want to mess about. I want to write the song of this picture’.

"When her condition was diagnosed in November 2004, Maxine’s thoughts turned immediately to how she would be remembered, particularly by her fifteen year old daughter, Jessica. "Determined that Jess should have positive memories of her after the grieving was over, Maxine commissioned a professional photo shoot which produced beautiful images of mother and daughter smiling together, looking as if they had not a care in the world. This was how she wanted to be remembered. As Maxine says ‘Cancer is terrible, but at least it gives you the chanceto put things right with those you love’.

"One of these photos, which can be seen on the cover of this CD, was to be the inspiration for Maxine’s song. Over the following weeks, she wrote reams of words, pouring her feelings out onto the page. My job was to take the words that best expressed the sentiments in thephotograph and shape them into a song. I provided the melody, but thewords are Maxine’s alone. She called the song ‘We Laughed’. In June, I got together with some local musicians and we recordedthis CD. The additional tracks feature lyrics written by two of the ‘Friday Girls’, Lisa Payne and Veronica Barfoot. That there is not ashred of self-pity or morbidity in any of these songs is a testament tothe spirit of these three women. I found the experience of collaborating with them to be inspirational.

You can find out more about how Maxine and Billy wrote the song, including short film clips of them talking about the process. Rosetta Life, the Trimar Hospice, and the women will benefit from the sales of this CD.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Euthanasia Debate

Euthanasia Debate
Wednesday 16th November 6:15pm
Lecture Theatre 1, SAF Building, Imperial College London

Chair: Professor John Laycock

For: Dr Margaret Branthwaite (Barrister and former consultant physician and anaesthetist at the Royal Brompton, representing the Voluntary Euthanasia Society)
Against: Professor John Wyatt (Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics at UCL and expert in Christian medical ethics)

This event is run by the Christian Medical Fellowship at Imperial College.
Light refreshments will be available.

Contact for further details.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Medicine on stage and screen

I was excited to see that the Almeida in London is staging Moliére's classic farce 'The Hypochondriac'. We have just been studying Moliére's doctor plays in the Literature and Medicine MA at King's, on which I am a student. Doctors are relentlessly pilloried in Moliére as being ineffectual and money-grabbing. Our tutor, Neil Vickers, has it that it is a thesis for the Renaissance theme of the triumph of the grandeur of nature over learning (epitomised by medicine). The London production runs from 17 November to 7 January: more information here. Coincidentally, the Belgrade theatre in Coventary is also showing a new version of the play, running from 7 to 19 November. Their website has a 'hypochondriac game' which seems to involve 'shooting' as many patients as possible. Hmm...

Also attracting attention is the documentary film 'Murderball' about wheelchair rugby. The film has been acclaimed for its unpatronising attitude to disability. Reviews here, here and where to see it in London, here.

TV influences medicine

Widely reported in today's press is the story that a new category of health professional is set to be introduced: Medical Care Practitioners. These will be (mainly science) graduates, fast-tracked through two-year training programme and will serve as assistants to doctors at a level between doctor and nurse. The proposals for the new scheme are under consultation. The Guardian reports a Department of Health official saying that it 'brings roles from the television drama ER to the heart of the NHS'. I blogged here an example of an episode of ER influencing the introduction of new medical techniques.

'House of God'

We discussed 'House of God' by Samuel Shem at 'Purple Coat Club' on Tuesday evening. I think it is safe to say that all of those present found it a pretty ghastly read. The book is a 'docbuster' widely read by medical students. It is famous for having introduced terms like 'gomer' ('Get Out of My Emergency Room') for geriatric patients, 'buffing' (making a chart look good regardless of the patient's treatment or condition) and 'turfing' (the process of moving patients between departments so that they are no longer your problem). So far, so bad, but the text is saturated with laviscious sex, drugs and suicide. None of the characters is particularly likeable (perhaps bar Berry). The staccato style of writing made it difficult to keep track of the somewhat insubstantial plot. In spite of it being awful, the book did make a good topic for discussion, with a lively debate on characterisation -- all the medics seemed to recognise people similar to those 'parodied' in the text -- and malpractice. Some of the themes have undoubtedly informed TV series such as 'Bodies' and 'Grey's Anatomy'. I think that the book is worth knowing about, if only as a cautionary tale to what medicine looks like when stripped of its humanity: it's diabolical, for patients as well as practioners. Other opinions?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

ONE life on BBC 1

On Monday evening I caught a documentary on BBC1 about IVF following infertility, and the story of one particular family who worked together to produce a baby.

Alex was 28 when her smear test showed a tumour on her cervix. Although she survived the cancer, the radiotherapy treatment left her infertile.

Determined to still have a child, Alex came up with a plan: she asked her twin sister Charlotte to provide her with an egg, and her older sister Helen to carry the pregnancy. This would mean the child would be the closest genetic match possible, and Charlotte wouldn't have to go through the whole procedure alone - something she wasn't keen on doing given she had not particularly enjoyed her previous pregnancies.

The long and short of it is that Helen gave birth to a baby boy, Charlie (apparently no reference to sister Charlotte), and Alex undertook the appropriate legal proceedings in order to adopt the child from her.

There was a definite air of wistful sadness on Helen's part when the child was taken directly to Alex upon birth, and when Charlie returns to London with Alex. However, the ability of two sisters to provide the ultimate gift for their sibling was so touching and kind, and made for good documentary material.