Tag Archive: Imperial College London


On Tuesday, I ran my annual poetry workshop for the Medical Humanities students at Imperial College London, led by Giskin Day. For part of the workshop, we applied the techniques used in Tom Phillips’ classic art book, ‘A Humument,’ to the Hippocratic Oath. I provided students with four versions of the Oath: a translation of the original, a version for nurses called the ‘Florence Nightingale Pledge,’ a modern version written in the 70s, and the ‘Affirmation’ that Imperial College London medical students will take once they graduate.

I’ve written previously (there and also here) about the amazing adaptability and resonance of applying ‘A Humument’ to Medical Humanities workshops. Students respond with an overwhelmingly positive level of enthusiasm to cutting out paper, marking up the texts, and teasing out words and phrases relevant to their experiences. They’ve given me permission to post their works below – and this was from about twenty minutes’ worth of ‘treatment’ time! I’ve selected some of the most colourful, but I want to thank all of the students for their marvellous contributions.

Tom Phillips would, I hope, be proud of the range of styles, and also the humour here:

Stunning styles.

Stunning styles.

Hilarious? Sad? Both?

Hilarious? Sad? Both?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each student came up with her (or his) own metaphorical style and approach. The artwork some of them did in just a fifteen or twenty minutes!

The doctor.

The doctor.

Seeing through the wall.

Seeing through the wall.

 

Ships at sea.

Ships at sea.

It’s not only impressive, but incredibly heartening, to see which words students chose:

Colour-blocking.

Colour-blocking.

Lab coat and blood (intended). Green field of poppies (interpreted).

Lab coat and blood (intended). Green field of poppies (interpreted).

A 'wordle'.

A ‘wordle’.

Teaching Humanities in Global Health

I’ll be spending a lot of time with this guy this autumn (Hippocrates).

Since beginning my role as Poet-in-Residence at the Whipple Museum in 2009, I’ve had the opportunity to both curate events at the Museum (I suppose that’s the right word for planning, organising, and hosting events,) and also run freelance workshops for all ages. This has led me to unexpected places. Lichfield, for example.

Over the past two years I’ve run one-time workshops in Medical Humanities at Imperial College – the first, focusing on medicine in poetry; the second, using extracts from my play, Venus Heart, to explore the arts in medicine with 4th-year medical students.

This year, I’ve been invited to lecture on the Global Health programme, providing a series of sessions on ‘Humanities in Global Health’ – a healthy opportunity to integrate a great variety of art and writing with medical studies. And so I am to be a Lecturer in Medical Humanities for Imperial College London’s Global Health BSc.

If all of that read like a foreign language you don’t know, let me explain. Global Health is a course for students who are in year 4 (of 6) of medical school or are training in biomedical studies. In the Global Health course, they examine worldwide trends of both endemic and epidemic diseases. Some of those diseases include polio, TB, malaria, cholera, obesity, malnutrition, cancer, AIDS, and heart disease.

There is a growing awareness of the importance of the study of the humanities within the medical field.

To quote from Medical Humanities: A Practical Introduction: ‘The ancients conceived medicine as a fundamental branch of philosophy. To Hippocrates, medicine is an art. Only by close and careful observation of the patient can the doctor hope to be successful.’

And, so we don’t limit our thinking to doctor-patient relationships (which, importantly, make up a large part of MedHum studies,)

‘There is no fundamental difference between the aspirations of the great artist and the great scientist, or, for that matter, the great clinician. They are all striving to explore nature, and understand its complexities for what they are.’

Sound familiar? Sound like the basis of all of my art/science poetry/biology writing and studies?

I’m excited to have the opportunity to challenge my students and challenge myself in exploring ‘Humanities in Global Health’. The sessions will combine lecture, discussion, readings, performances, tours, poetry, novel(s) and artworks. My head is full with books such as ‘Illness as Metaphor,’ ‘Treatments,’ ‘Medicine,’ and ‘Nemesis’.

Challenging? Yes. Up for it? You bet.

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