Friday, May 18, 2007

Purple Coat Club / Medical Humanities Society events

Michele Petrone

I am really sorry to report that Michele Petrone has died. Michele was a wonderful artist, and a caring and altruistic human being. When he was diagnosed with cancer he chronicled his illness in his art. He really believed that painting helped him cope, and he passed his insight on to others. 'Inspirational' doesn't even begin to describe him. I'll miss him so much. Michele's good work lives on through the MAP Foundation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Diagnosis Wenckeback

Recently, those of us with upcoming medical finals exams have had a serious "chat" deficit. Over time, we have come to accept that medicine has become and will always be ingrained in our conversations, our humour and our souls. This is particularly true of group e-mails more recently, with a rather amusing sketch sent over from across the pond.

WARNING: This is somewhat medical in nature and thus may not excite a huge number of people (or their AV nodes for that matter) and for that I apologise.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The invention of health

Oh gosh, I wasn't even aware that medical humanities was a 'space of problematisation'... I'm definitely going along to this to find out what's in that space!

The invention of health: creativity and the medical task: a CSISP seminar

Thursday 17 May 4.30-6.30 Warmington Tower, Room 1204
with Monica Greco Sociology Department, Goldsmiths

In recent years, an increasing number of medical educators have explicitly thematised the relevance of 'creativity' to the medical task. While this movement has gone some way towards addressing the relational dimensions of health, illness and medicine, it has tended to leave unchallenged a number of fundamental ontological assumptions. On the other hand, advocates of a 'successor paradigm' in medicine have explicitly addressed the need for a transformed understanding of the material substrate of health and disease processes, in such a way as to suggest that matter itself can be both creative and subjective. Typically, however, they have stopped short of considering relational constraints at the level of interpersonal and societal interaction. This paper will argue that evidence suggesting a link between health, illness, and creative process is abundant and yet 'anecdotal'. The anecdotal character of such evidence is not accidental, but must rather be regarded as symptomatic of the implications that a processual approach to the medical task would have to envisage as a specific challenge.

Monica Greco joined Sociology at Goldsmiths in 1996 after completing herdoctorate at the European University Institute (Florence). She has along standing interest in how mind/body dualism has been problematisedwithin medical discourse. Her book Illness as a Work of Thought(Routledge, 1998) offers a genealogical analysis of psychosomatic medicine. More recently, her work has turned to the emergence of medical humanities as a space of problematisation. She has published articles in Economy and Society, Health, Theory, Culture and Society and Social Science and Medicine.

Friday, May 11, 2007

In praise of the reopened Wellcome library

I want to go to the Wellcome.
They make sure it lives up to its name.
It’s clean and it’s neat
The chairs are a treat,
And it makes the BL look lame.

I want to stay at the Wellcome.
No expense has been spared over there.
They’ve Wi-Fi that works,
There are plenty of perks,
The loo paper’s quilted – I swear!

I want to move in to the Wellcome.
Do you think they would give me a place?
Surrounded by books
In one of their nooks,
I wouldn’t take up too much space.

I want to live at the Wellcome.
The service I can’t get at home,
It's so nice the way
At the end of the day
They will tidy away every tome.

It’s bliss over there at the Wellcome.
No papers in teetering piles,
No sticky marks on my screen
Where the children have been –
Whom I guess I might miss after a while…

Perhaps I won’t move to the Wellcome
The problem is food there is banned,
And everyone knows
That one cannot write prose
Without coffee and chocolate to hand.

Maugham's moment

Somerset Maugham, chronicler of the early 1900s, is in vogue again. One of his short stories, 'The Letter, is on at Wyndham's Theatre in the West End, and the film of another, 'The Painted Veil', is enjoying box-office success. In an afternoon of sheer indulgence yesterday I went to see both. Maugham is of interest because he qualified as a doctor but never practised. His medical training is evident in his writing, particularly in 'Of Human Bondage' which is not about S&M, but about the constraining nature of social obligation. 'Human Bondage' is one of my favourite novels. It's excruciating in places -- the protagonist, Philip Carey is infuriating but fascinating. Like his creator, Philip also spends time as a medical student. Descriptions of stigma (Philip has a club foot) are thought to be informed by bullying Maugham experienced as a result of his stammer.

'The Letter' and 'The Painted Veil' have parallels, aside from a penchant for white linen suits and panama hats. Both are set abroad and deal with issues of adultery, colonialism and corruption. 'The Letter' (Independent review here) stars Jenny Seagrove (of TV's Judge John Deed fame) as a woman accused of murder. Anthony Andrews is absolutely outstanding as her lawyer and friend of her husband. It's an engrossing, if somewhat outmoded, story, sumptuously produced. I was puzzled but the lighting effects which suspended time permanently at dawn in spite of most of the action taking place at night. This minor irritation aside, the sets were stunning.

'The Painted Veil' has landscape to rival 'The English Patient' of which it is faintly reminiscent. This is more obviously medical. The character of Walter Fane (Edward Norton) is a bacteriologist -- now there's a profession that rarely gets an outing in literature. He takes Kitty (Naomi Watts) to Shanghai with him, and then on to deal with a cholera outbreak in the back of beyond. Fane has a touch of Mr Darcy about him and Kitty is capricious society girl who finds herself out of her depth in a politically unstable, disease-wracked community. It's a portrait of a impulsive and ill-advised marriage which matures under desperate circumstances. I really loved this movie. It's worth seeing on the big screen for the cinematographic splendour of the Chinese landscapes.
I have resolved to read more of Maugham's work. He has an enviable talent for characterisation, realised very well in the stage play 'The Letter' and the film 'The Painted Veil'.

I was rocked!

This time last week an intrepid band of medical students were starting preparations for the third annual '24-Hour Opera'. This is a show prepared and performed over the course of a night and a day. Saturday's show was 'We Will Rock You'. Heaven knows how many cans of Red Bull were consumed during the making of this show, but the performers didn't look as if they were suffering from sleep deprivation. In fact the energy levels rivalled those of my 6-year-old on smarties and Robinson's.

The cast did fantastically. The dance routines were great (well done to our own Tash Wiggins who was the choreographer). Matt Mak revealed talents we would have found ways to exploit on the Medical Humanities course last year had we known he could sing and dance. The band was really amazing -- what a talented bunch of individuals. Did anyone think to invite Brian May? He was spotted in SAFB the other day...

Well done to the directors Claire and Seshi, the backstage crew and everyone else involved. It was a memorable evening, and all for a worthy cause. Funds were raised for Demelza House.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Mozart and the Whale

For everyone that attended the meeting of 'Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time', I forgot to mention that there is another book (and film now) that provides more insight into Asperger's Syndrome - particularly the notion that autistic people are drawn together.

The film stars my favourite actress, Radha Mitchell (of 'Neighbours' fame!), and is based on the book by Mary and Jerry Newport. Jerry Newport is an author with Asperger's Syndrome and is also a mathematical savant. The book is a true story of their relationship and has been well received by critics. It is by no means a heavy read and is described more as a "quirky memoir" than anything else.

I am going to get hold of the film asap (since it wasn't actually released in the UK) and will let you know if it is any good. You're more than welcome to come round and watch it with me. Possible future book/film for the Purple Coat Club?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Lines written on attending a memorial service for babies and children

The world goes by. Inside
The clocks are stopped.
A passing cyclist in the dappled park
Cannot sense the sadness within.

Along the altar, lights are lit
For all the lights too soon extinguished.
A baby’s voice echoes from a laden pew
As silent cries echo in these leaden hearts.

A hymn, a muted sob, a prayer
Rise to the high walls, where
The sinking sun casts spring leaves’
Lively and playful shadows.