Monday, 16 November 2015

Art as Therapy - using other people's art.

Sally Swain, on her Art and Soul blog, recently published a story (click on the link to read it) of one person's recovery from her grief through art. There are many such stories, not all of them leading to exhibitions and shifts in career direction as this one did.

Picasso Sculpture at MOMA
November 2015
Wikipedia says that art therapy began with the psychoanalytic interpretation of symbolism in the client's art work, but using art as therapy was discovered long before that, and art therapy itself has subsequently evolved into a great deal more than the psychoanalysts used it for, with a greater focus on self-expression rather than on interpretation.

Mostly when people talk about art as therapy they mean doing art. Alain de Botton (Swiss born philosopher and author of many well known books) and John Armstrong (Glasgow born philosopher and author now living in Melbourne) published a book in 2013 called Art as Therapy. In it they explored the notion that looking at art, if you do it in the right way, has therapeutic value as well. They contend that this therapeutic value has been lost in the modern world because when we look at art we ask the wrong questions of it and of ourselves.

As Alain de Botton's website says: "This book involves reframing and recontextualising a series of art works from across the ages and genres, so that they can be approached as tools for the resolution of difficult issues in individual life" 

It's an interesting idea that we can solve our problems by enjoying other people's creativity not just by exercising our own.

Enjoying work by Jim Shaw at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, November 2015

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The Healing Power of Slam

If you have any doubt about the healing power of poetry read this. It's the story of Emtithal Mahmoud's win in this year's Individual World Poetry Slam a competition that attracts the world's best slam poets.
A member of the Yale Slam Poetry Team and in the final year of her undergraduate degree, Emi is heading for a career as a research physician. She won the competition not in spite of but because of the death of a beloved grandmother that occurred just as she set off to compete.
Emtithal Mahmoud

Emi says of her experience in the competition "you could lose yourself on stage and everyone was there to hold you....I came away from it feeling much better than when I went in and feeling like I did something for [her grandmother],” 

But its not just personal - its political as well. Emi has been a political activist since her teens. She was born in Sudan and her performances call upon her own and her family's experiences in the violence in her country of origin. 

Watch Emi performing at the 2015 National Poetry Slam. Emi's performances epitomise the powerful potential of spoken word poetry.

Monday, 26 October 2015

On the subject of creative uses of our tools of trade.....

...who'd have thought a hospital chart could become an educational intervention and a catalyst for creativity!

Ten years after graduating from Harvard Medical School Rita Charon returned to University to complete a PhD in English Literature. She then set about melding her two academic careers. In 1998 at Columbia University Charon founded a program in Narrative Medicine. Amongst many other wonderful exercises and activities, medical students in their 3rd and 4th years were asked to write "parallel charts" - tracking the things that were not mentioned in the official charts about the patients emotional experience of hospitalisation. Once a week the students were asked to read their accounts to each other. The point?  To encourage young doctors to listen to the patients' stories and address their patients' whole humanity.

“When you write, you often discover not only what the patient is thinking and feeling, but what you are thinking and feeling,” says Charon. As she explains to her students, “These memories, these sadnesses, these feelings influence the care you give."

Charon has gone on to publish several books including "Narrative Medicine, Honoring the Stories of Illness". She has also served as editor in chief of the journal Literature and Medicine the biennial journal of the Institute of Medical Humanities published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Columbia has had a Masters of Science in Narrative Medicine since 2009 under Charon's direction. 

Charon hopes her program encourages more doctors to write about their experiences. “They now bring us manuscripts, and I have gotten the Writing Division at Columbia to hold a workshop here, once or twice a month, where these aspiring authors can get editing counsel,”

Read more about  the Columbia program HERE and watch Dr Charon's TED talk called Honouring the Stories of Illness where she talks about teaching the art of story telling and receiving HERE

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Art in Agar

Neurons - the winning entry from
the Agar Art Competition
by Mehmet Berkman and Maria Penil
If you think there's no art in medical science take a look at this article. It's a report from the Huffington Post about the American Society for Microbiology's first Agar Art Competition. Details are incredibly difficult to find on the very serious and scientific ASM website but I finally found the announcement here with links to pictures of all the placegetters. It's got me wondering what other tools of the trade we can get creative with.

 Just by way of example, there's a GP I know from Facebook who has a travelling auriscope. Wherever he goes his auriscope stars in great little photos, amusing and provocative, that make pertinent comments on life, the universe and everything.

How else might we use our tools of trade to brighten up the world?

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

How to Get Back to Your Creativity after a Long While Away

I knew Sally Swain , artist, teacher, writer and therapist, was a treasure when I met her, so I asked her to write something for Creative Doctors about getting back in touch with creativity. Here it is:

"Art-making, writing, performing…something sparked you early in life. You had to let it go to immerse yourself in your medical career. You ache to return to that passion, but don’t know how. Or there’s no time, or it seems too hard or frivolous. Maybe you believe you’re not really very ‘good’ at it anyway, so why bother?
"Rhyming Cuplet - foundground" by Sally Swain

Tread lightly.

Approach your long-lost creative self with tenderness and care. You might have Artist Wounds from long ago. A teacher banished you from the school choir. Other kids in your class were praised for their neat drawings, while you were ignored. Everyone said your sister was ‘the artist’ in the family and you were ‘the clever one’.

How to heal an Artist Wound? You need more than a quick dab with mercurochrome.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Music for Art, Art for Life

Nick Brennan
Creative doctor and singer-songwriter Nick Brennan, fresh from his 2015 appearance at the Creative Doctors Performers Night at the Camelot Lounge, will appear again in the annual fundraiser concert for War Memorial Hospital at Waverley, NSW on Saturday 7th November. Every year the concert raises money to buy art to add to the hospital's collection.
(If you're interested here's an article from the Wall Street Journal from August 2014 about the importance of art in hospital environments)

Special guests this year will include Australia's Best Busker 2012 Ollie Brown (check him out at, Adam Gottlieb and Gabby Brennan.

The concert starts at 8.00pm but the $20 ticket price includes nibbles and finger food from 7.00pm with drinks available for purchase.

Music for Art, Art for Life

Saturday 7th November 
"The Stables" Education Centre, 
Cnr Church St and Carrington Rd, Waverley.

Get your tickets at the door 
or from

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Winning Logo

As promised, we announced the winner of our logo competition last Thursday night at Camelot. We had a dozen entries and our judge, Gill Corban, had a tough job making her decision. Thank you to everybody who took the time to apply themselves and their creative talents to the task of creating an entry.

In the end Gill chose an entry submitted by Elie Mattar, currently a medical registrar at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. She said Elie's entry was quirky and memorable and best captured what Creative Doctors was all about. Elie won a gift voucher from Gill's company Corban and Blair which we are certain he will enjoy spending!

So let us introduce you to our new Creative Doctors logo (we hope you like it as much as we do):

I wonder if he/she should have a name?

All suggestions are welcome.

Here's that mysterious blonde again.

Can you see the tiny out-of-focus blonde figure singing with the band? (That's the Dave Eisinger Band who closed the show at Camelot on Thursday night.) She was Dave's special guest on the night, and maybe if I told you she sang "Stomping at Maroubra" some of you might have a tiny clue about who she is!
For those of you who are too young to know here's a link to help you out
Wow, did we ever have a great night! It was rounded off by some wild sixties rock and some cool dance floor moves thanks to Dave's band and a very enthusiastic audience.
Watch for posts about Performers Night in the coming weeks.
Right now I'm still too exhausted from it all to go on!
But just because I know you want to hear it here's a link to Stompin' at Maroubra recorded in 1963 on the B side of He's MY Blonde Headed Stompie Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Were You Alive in Sixty-Five?

If you were you'll recognise the girl in the picture.
What's that got to do with anything?
Come to Creative Doctors Performers Night to find out:

7.00pm Thursday 10th September 2015
Camelot Lounge
19 Marrickville Rd, Marrickville

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

More (Non-musical) Wickedness at the Camelot Lounge

Remember that wicked film we saw at a past Performers Night - the one about hospital funding (gangnam style) that was taken off Youtube because it was too incendiary?
Anaesthetist/filmmaker Tony Padley is back in 2015 with an excerpt from another short film he's made called "Westmead Story: The Cruelest Cut". Funding is not the issue this time but I have heard the film is very funny indeed. We are very lucky are we to have it on the program this year at Performers Night. You won't find it on the net so you'll have to come to see what it is all about.
There's another five minute film on the program too, by child psychiatrist Sam Younan and called "Not Quite Ready". Its subject matter is shrouded in mystery.
And we've got live comedy as well - Abhi Pal and Leon Edwards are going to see how much fun they can get out of "Bullying in Medicine". They might have set themselves a bit of a challenge!
Come on, come to Camelot on Thursday night- you'll be sorry if you don't!

Creative Doctors Performers Night
7.00pm Thursday 10th September 2015
Camelot Lounge
19Marrickville Rd, Marrickville

Just drop in on the night or, better still,  let us know you're coming: 
RSVP to Howard Gwynne

Monday, 7 September 2015

Who Else is Coming to Camelot on Thursday?

As well as the wonderful Sam Warhurst (see previous post) we are delighted to have quite a few other accomplished  medical musicians and performers on the bill this year:
Nick Brennan is a singer-songwriter who has performed for us at Camelot before. You can buy Nick's 2013 album Marching Single File in Limbo by clicking on the link - or listen to some of his work on the Triple J Unearthed Jukebox website. Nick, a geriatrician, is currently busy putting together his next album.

Alana Bruce at the Camelot Lounge

Also returning to entertain us is singer-songwriter Alana Bruce who regrets that her musical career has been somewhat hampered recently by her medical career. Alana's first album, Degrees of Freedom, was released  in 2009. Alana and her husband Ben Hoadley, who will perform with her at Camelot, are currently medical registrars. You can hear Alana and read about her musical career by following this link to the Triple J Unearthed website. 

Come and join us for all this and much more.

Creative Doctors Performers Night
7.00pm Thursday 10th September 2015
Camelot Lounge
19Marrickville Rd, Marrickville

Just drop in on the night or, better still,  let us know you're coming: 
RSVP to Howard Gwynne

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Come to Camelot for Performers Night 2015

Creative Doctors Performers Night is on again this Thursday 10th September at the Camelot Lounge in Marrickville, in Sydney's beautiful, rapidly gentrifying industrial heartland.
Come and hear original music, perfect performances and watch exciting new films from doctors and medical students who are all part of the Creative Doctors network.

We have some old favourites and some exciting newcomers on the bill. (You won't want to miss seeing Samantha Warhurst. Click on her name to see Sam performing
Samantha Warhurst
at the Voice Foundation's 42nd Annual Symposium in Philadelphia earlier this year)

Entry to Camelot for Creative Doctors' Performers Night is free thanks to our sponsor, Judith Babich from Active Locums, and pizza, mezza plates and liquid refreshments will be available to purchase from the bar.

Prepare to be dazzled by the talent on show!

7.00pm Thursday 10th September
Camelot Lounge
19Marrickville Rd, Marrickville

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Who won the logo competition?

You'll have to come to Camelot to find out!

In the interests of encouraging present and future medical graduates to continue doing the things that keep them sane.

Creative Doctors invites you to our annual
Thursday 10th September 2015 at 7.00 pm
at the Camelot Lounge
19 Marrickville Rd Marrickville 2204

Have you been to Camelot before?
If so, you will know what fun we have at our Creative Doctors Performer's Nights.

If you can sing, dance or play a musical instrument, tell a joke or perform amazing sleight of hand we would like to see you there. Short films are also welcome
Whatever your performance preference we can
give you an opportunity to show your colleagues what you can do
If you are a medical graduate or are planning to be soon, come join us; strut your stuff or watch your esteemed colleagues strut theirs.
We only do this once a year - so don't miss your chance!
The Camelot Lounge is a great venue  with two stages and a baby grand, a sophisticated sound system (complete with an accomplished sound engineer) and the capacity to screen short films.
Entry is free, thanks to our sponsor Judith Babich of Active Locums. 
You can buy drinks and a pizza/mezza plate from the bar and enjoy the show

RSVP by Friday 28th August to Howard Gwynne
Creative Doctors on Facebook

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Free Online Course in Medical Humanities

Creative Doctors has just found a free online course in Medical Humanities.

Susan Levine and Steve Reid

The course will be presented over 6 weeks for 3 hours a week by Dr Susan Levine (anthropologist) and Prof Steve Reid (general practitioner) from the University of Capetown, and delivered through an online education provider called "FutureLearn".
Beginning on September 21st the course promises to "question our propensity to separate the body from the mind in healthcare, consider what defines humanity, and share points of connection and difference between art and medicine" . It sounds to us like something that would be of interest to many Creative Doctors, especially  since it will also allow an online exchange of ideas with like-minded learners from all over the world.
Here's a link to more information about the course

FutureLearn is an interesting find. Launched in September 2013 it offers free online courses from respected institutions and cultural organisations from all over the world, including many universities in the UK, some from other parts of Europe and two Australian universities, UNSW and Monash University. You may like to look at some of the other courses the website has to offer. In the Creative Arts and Media section, for example, we found courses ranging from dental photography(!) to filmmaking and fiction writing.
And, in case you want to go back to subjects medical, there's a course on  Clinical Supervision with Confidence (find it here) designed for those supervising trainee doctors being offered by the University of East Anglia starting on 17th August (4hrs a week for 2 weeks) that might also be of interest.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

5 STORIES - a New Exhibition of Work by Margo Hoekstra

One member of Creative Doctors who is convinced of the value of creative endeavour is Margo Hoekstra.
Margo, when she's not practicing medicine, runs the Tom Bass Sculpture Studio School in honour of her late husband, the internationally reknown Australian sculptor Tom Bass, who founded the school in 1974. (Here's the link to Tom on Wikipedia where you can also find images of some of his best known works)
The school has been a registered not-for-profit organisation since 2003 and next year will award the inaugural Tom Bass Prize, Australia's first national prize for figurative sculpture.

Margo is an accomplished sculptor in her own right and her works have been featured here on this blog in the past.
On show at the Studio from 5th August until the 2nd September will be an exhibition of 25 of Margo's works entitled 5 STORIES featuring five different chapters of her creative life from the last 30 years.

If you'd like to meet Margo and be inspired, she will be at the Studio School on Saturday 22nd August between 1 and 4 pm then, on Saturday 29th August at 2 pm, she will be there again to give an Artists Talk. The School is at 1a Clara St Erskineville NSW.

If you're interested in learning whether this art form meets your creative needs go to the Sculpture School website where you'll find  information about a number of special workshops as well as details of the School's introductory and ongoing courses. I quite fancy the one day soapstone carving workshop - it sounds like fun.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Damn the Slam - it's done!

Missed the Slam?
Damn! We had a
damn fine time of
rhythm and rhyme
humour and wit and
more than a bit
of politics
left and right
(but mostly left)

Mariam's a wonder -
no wonder we all love her
did the job, found the guests
did her best
love poems
while her man just smiled and
added up the scores

Her special guests
set the bar pretty high
but the bar was nigh
and the docs didn't flinch,
didn't give an inch
steeled as they are for a fight to the death
to see who's best
in any kind of tussle
where wit not muscle
brings the spoils

There was medical madness, sadness, badness,
and a little joy
but boy, very little
for it seems
the dreams of docs
are haunted
by what they've seen
and been made to do
so soon

But they made us laugh and
click with delight
on a black winter's night
on a bright red stage
with comments sage
unfaltering rhythm, impeccable rhyme
alliterating, iterating, titillating,
scintillating, stimulating, motivating

Thanks from Creative Doctors to:
Dr Mariam Chaalan, the Red Rattler Theatre  in Marrickville (what a great venue!), Judith Babich of Active Locums and special guests Will Small and Jonathon Davis and the 70 plus finger-clicking audience members who all had an amazing experience.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Reigniting Creativity

Someone asked me recently how to get back into art. I don't know that I'm the right person to ask, but I suggested that she come to some Creative Doctors networking meetings and ask some people who've done just that how they went about "getting back into art"  after many years of a life immersed in medicine.

Since then I've met someone else who might be able to help.

Sally Swain is an  artist, art therapist and "creativity coach" from Sydney who has a blog called Art and Soul Space. She's also the author of several very interesting books including "Great Housewives of Art" a wonderfully humourous and provocative look at art and gender through such serious subjects as Madame Degas vacuuming in her tutu and Mrs Picasso dusting the mantelpiece. (You can click here to see more of the fabulous pictures from the book)

If you want to be inspired have a look at Sally's blog. I guarantee that every post will make you smile. You'll love the non-linear connections, the flexible thinking and the way she turns the everyday into something special.

You may even come away inspired to do something creative yourself.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Creative Doctors Dates to Remember:

We're giving you the opportunity to help create our visual identity and Thursday 30th July is closing date for the logo competition. 

Entries must be received by midnight on 30th July to be in contention
Logo suggestions should be simple, bright, memorable and reflect the purpose of Creative Doctors
Submit entries via the contact form on the blog or directly to
Here's a link to more information

Thursday 30th July  is ALSO the date of the

Creative Doctors inaugural POETRY SLAM  

at 7.00pm at the Red Rattler in Marrickville

Click here for more information about the night and on their names to see special guests Jonathon Davis  and  Will Small at work


Thursday 10th September

is Performers Night at the Camelot Lounge

People are excited already about our annual Performers Night and I am getting calls from prospective performers hoping to secure their spot on the program. 
Based on past successes we can guarantee it will be a great evening.

Performers start rehearsing now! -
and if you want to be in the audience
please put the date in your calendar.

This will be best medical variety show in Sydney on the night! 

Invitations to performers will be coming out soon. 
Make sure you watch this space and your inbox

Just to give you a feel for it, you can see some visual highlights of doctors and medical students performing at past Creative Doctors Performers Nights on the right

You'll be amazed by what you see!!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Writers Night Anthology Part 5 - An elephant in the room

I can't find any pictures of Alan Lackey that don't involve him accepting a prize for something. I've succumbed to the pressure. There he is on the left accepting yet another one while at medical school (which, for him, wasn't all that long ago).
At Writers Night 2015 he showed another side of himself, reading two poems one of which, "An elephant in the room", you can read on the Original Words page by clicking here

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

OMG!!! The logo competition entry address is wrong!

Many apologies to those of you who have been trying to send in your logo competition entries to the email address advertised.
We've received some entries via the blog (which was clever!) but the email address for entries should have been (there are two "c"s in mccauley not one)
Looking forward to hearing from even more of you now i've finally got it right!

Writers Night Anthology - Part 4 Robyn Coleman's Travel Blog

Robyn Coleman is a retired GP and Occupational Medicine Physician whose art work featured at our Visual Arts Night earlier this year.
Robyn has recently added travel writing to her list of creative interests and treated us with a post from her new blog at Writer's Night last month.
To read "Ancient Olympia Comes to Life", the work Robyn presented at Creative Doctors Writers Night 2015, go to her blog travelwritingwithvictoriarobyn

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Writers Night Anthology - Part 3: Pumpkin Soup

There's a new story on the Original Words page. Click here  to find it. It's the one I read at the Writers Night this year. It's a bit wicked and, before you ask, all the characters are entirely fictitious!
Writing short stories and poetry is something I do for my own pleasure. It gives me a sense of achievement and provides me with a place to anchor all the free floating emotions dislodged by my challenging day job.
I'd like to be a real writer one day but I guess I'll have to hurry if that's ever going to happen. In the meantime I'm just doing it for fun.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Logo, Logo, Logo!!!!

Gillian Corban of Corban and Blair
A couple of months ago we announced that Creative Doctors needs a logo. We need a logo for our letterhead, our blog and for banners to fly at our events.
We have had a couple of great suggestions so far but we want more to choose from so we are finally announcing that THE COMPETITION IS ON!!
We have a judge (Gillian Corban from Corban and Blair, a Sydney based company that specialises in great design and custom made products)  and a prize (a voucher from that same company)
We need something bright and snappy that reflects the links between medicine and creativity and that will easily translate to a poster or a banner.
Send your entry to  by 30th July 2015 to be in the running.
We'll announce the winner in August and your work will be immortalised through Creative Doctors!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Announcing Creative Doctors First Ever POETRY SLAM!

Dr Mariam Chaalan
We've got new blood and new blood brings great new we're having a POETRY SLAM!
Want to know what it is? Check out the Australian Poetry Slam website at the end of this link. Watch some slam poets at work and decide whether its your kind of entertainment or better still, if you can do it too!
Dr Mariam Chaalan has found us the perfect slam venue in the Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville and invited a couple of very special guests, slam poets Will Small and Jonathon Davis (click on their names to see them at work)
Go to the Events Page of this blog for more details.See you in Marrickville on 30th July

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Writer's Night Anthology - Part 2: Poetry by Brendan McPhillips

Brendan performing at Camelot 2014
Brendan McPhillips is a Sydney based GP psychotherapist whose interests extend to writing poetry and prose, and improvised performance. He has been involved in improvised theatre for over a decade in a group now called the Out of the Box Theatre Company (formerly Paperbag Playback) which relies on techniques of spontaneous response as a way of honouring the everyday events of our lives
There is a clear connection between these personal interests and Brendan's professional life

Brendan's contribution to writer's night was a very beautiful and personal poem about his relationship with his "goddaughter" You can find Brendan's poem on the Original Words Page of this blog

Friday, 26 June 2015

Writers Night Anthology - Part 1: A Break in the Wall

Creative Doctors Writers Networking Night 2015 demonstrated deep wells of talent amongst the
attendees. As a result we've decided to create an anthology of works from the night and this is Part 1.

Bruce Lachter is a psychiatrist whose published novel "A Break in the Wall" draws on his experience as a prison psychiatrist and his talent in seeing the humourous side of darkness to create a fascinating and highly readable work.
Bruce has given us the first two chapters of his novel to publish on the Original Words page of this blog. If it leaves you  itching for more the novel is available from Amazon in paperback or in a kindle edition.

Creative doctors thanks Judith Babich from Active Locums for her support in catering for this event and Black Dog Institute for providing the venue.

Watch this space in coming weeks for more of the work presented on the night.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

2015 Writers Night is this Thursday 18th June

Just a quick reminder that Creative Doctors Writers Networking Night is coming up this week
The amazing Dr Dennis Lewis-Enright
reading from his spontaneous musings
at Writers Night 2014
Thursday 18th June at 6.30 for 7.00pm 
Main Lecture Room, Ground Floor
Black Dog Institute

The Black Dog Institute building is on Hospital Rd, a road within the grounds of Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick NSW. Hospital Rd runs from High St to Barker St along the edge of the Hospital. There is some street parking nearby and you are free to use the POW Hospital car park.

Light refreshments will be provided by the wonderful Judith Babich from Active Locums and we can expect to hear some of our members reading some great writing from both their published and unpublished work, as we have in previous years.

If you plan to come please let Howard know soon so that we can get the catering right. 0402827156
If you plan to read and haven't let us know yet please let Jan know asap so we can finalise the program 0425215876

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Channeling Madame Defarge

It's winter again and some of us have turned our backs on the great outdoors and begun to snuggle up with our knitting. The click clack of my needles helps me shut out the daily struggles, the guillotine's thud.
Image by Kaley Tate
Sitting granny-like in my favorite chair, secretly indulging myself with needles and yarn, I have come across an article that tells me that not only am I one of the coolest of people but also that my favorite winter past time causes dopamine release and can cure a myriad of ills including depression and PTSD.
The article in the Daily Mail sparked my interest enough to have me go looking for some supporting evidence for its claims.
It seems that knitting's benefits are about more than a sense of achievement in creative endeavour.  Rhythmic repetitive body movements, stimulation from colour and texture, repetitive eye movement and focused mindful activity are all some of the suggested mechanisms for knitting's psychological benefits.
We also know that people who take up a craft like knitting, as well as those who read and play games, are less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment as they age. Increasing the complexity of the task improves the results further. Knitting is good for you, cable and fair isle are better still!
Is anyone willing to admit to knitting - now you know what a good thing it is? (Or have you known it all along?)

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Don’t let practising medicine get in the way of your creativity!

“It’s never too late” was the main message coming out of Visual Arts night this year – never too late to get involved in artistic pursuits and hone the skills you learn to a high level. Striking stories of recent engagement (or re-engagement) with the arts were the order of the night.
Our 2015 Creative Doctors Visual Arts Networking Night was held  on 23rd April at North Sydney. We saw an array of extraordinary exhibits from talented doctors - some familiar faces and a satisfying number of new ones. We also saw quite wide range of visual arts represented. Judith Babich of Active Locums again provided the venue (a terrific space in North Sydney Community Centre complete with display tables and easels) and the refreshments. 
Richard Wu

Marc Grunseit, former doctor and internationally reknown glass artist, Howard Gwynne, GP psychotherapist newborn as a photographer and Richard Wu, artist and practising psychiatrist, led the way for those whose work we’ve seen before. Marc has been a glass artists for 30 years having made the perilous leap out of medicine and landed safely on the other side. Howard would tell you that he discovered the joys of multiple exposure by chance. You can see some of the results of that chance discovery here. He took the opportunity to show us some of his more playful recent work. Richard Wu showed us works in 3 different styles. His interests include finding a model that ties together Chinese painting, psychotherapy and the neuroscience of creativity. We also saw some more beautiful felting from haematologist Alessandra Bianchi.
Alessandra Bianchi

Newcomers included:

  • Kai Lin Lie, GP, who shared her experience of learning to draw as a mature student and showed us examples of the various techniques she has mastered.
  • John Wong, GP, who exhibited skillful watercolour landscapes  influenced by his Chinese heritage and stunned us with the news that he only took up painting, or any kind of visual art, 3 years ago.
  • Libby Bassett, former GP, who showed some of the extraordinary printmaking work she has done since taking it up in her retirement.
  • Robyn Coleman, retired GP and occupational medicine specialist,
    Shima Ghedia
    who took up painting with her daughter some years ago to aid her daughter’s recovery from a serious illness and couldn’t stop. The process inspired Robyn to complete a Diploma of Visual Arts and she has exhibited every year since 2006. Robyn  showed us some of her recent pastel paintings.
  • Shima Ghedia, emergency medicine specialist,who exhibited artwork and a portfolio of photography
  • Barry Wilkins who displayed his stunning photographic landscapes
  • Ajesh Shrestha, RMO, who showed us 17 delightful small graphite portraits – a talent he developed as a child growing up in Nepal.  You can see more of Ajesh’s work at here

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The New Art of Medicine - Art in Medical Schools

Art therapy is a well established therapeutic modality, helping people recover from a wide range of physical and emotional difficulties, but art education for their doctors is a relatively new idea. It's not aimed at helping doctors manage their own health problems (though that's not a bad idea either) but rather at helping doctors understand what illness is like for their patients.
Artwork by Ted Meyer from his
Structural Abnormalities series

The Huffington Post recently published an article about Ted Meyer who has been guest artist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA  for the past 5 years. Ted's story of the artistic crisis that occurred for him when he discovered he was not, after all, going to die at 30 is interesting in itself, but the story of the work he does with medical students is even more fascinating

This new way of thinking is even having an impact on the way prospective students in medical schools are being assessed. Dr Salvatore Mangione, Associate Professor of Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University says in an interview with Forbes Magazine in 2013  (you can read it here) that "artistic and visual skills may enhance the ability of a student to excel in medical school and become a successful physician in practice." Interestingly it is suggested that the right brain's visual and imagery skills have been made more important by the visual emphasis of the digital age.

Read the Huffington Post story here and let us know if you are aware of any other similar initiatives in Australian medical schools.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Creative Doctors Needs a Logo

We need your help.

Creative Doctors needs a visual identity and we'd like to invite all our visual artists and would-be visual artists to help us create one.
We plan to have a logo competition soon but we have no prize and no judges just yet. Don't let that stop you from thinking about it though.
We need a simple but meaningful logo to put on our brochures, signs and banners to announce our presence. It needs to resonate with our aim of encouraging creativity in the medical profession in the interests of doctors health and wellbeing.
I'd like it to have some orange in it but that's just me (you've probably noticed already that it's my colour du jour)
Start designing everyone while we work to get the competition up and running. Wouldn't it be great to have our banner flying at Camelot!

DON'T FORGET the next Creative Doctors events for 2015 are:

Writers Night at the Black Dog Institute in Randwick
on 18th June (for logo inspiration read about the award winning Black Dog Institute Logo here )and
Performers Night at the Camelot Lounge in Marrickville on 10th September

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Visual Arts Night tonight!!!

Creative Doctors Visual Arts Night is on tonight in North Sydney at north Sydney Community Centre, 220 Miller St North Sydney at 7.00pm. Watch this space for details of the great art on display.

We have 14 doctors exhibiting visual art ranging from drawings and watercolours to glassmaking, photography and felting.

One of the exhibitors will be Dr Marc Grunseit who gave up doctoring years ago and is now an award winning professional glass artist. Let that be an inspiration to you all.

Here's an example of Marc's work- a fused glass donor wall in a hospital foyer.
To see more of Marc's creations follow this link to his website. I promise you'll be blown away!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Last Writes - A story by Dr Hilton Koppe

I've got to stop talking about Hilton - he's rapidly becoming the star of the Creative Doctors blog. But don't worry Hilton - there's plenty of talent out there and I'm sure your pedestal will get a bit wobbly very soon!
In the meantime, the story Hilton shared with us at our Creative Doctors Creative Writing Workshop in March has been published in the most recent edition of Pulse MD - Voices From the Heart of Medicine
Dr Hilton Koppe

Here's the link to the story.

And for those of you who need encouragement to read it here are some of the things people have said in the comments so far:

Lovely and touching story, Hilti!   #sheila turken

I just about managed to finish reading your account before tears could flood my eyes completely Causing temporary blindness.   #promila thomas

Thanks very much Hilton for sharing this moving story, which feels deeply authentic. I'm sure that this man was very fortunate to have you accompany him throughout his illness and to bear witness to the end. You've also offered a frank insight into the frustrations, doubts and fears which are an integral part of this work   .#Sally Warmington

A pleasure to hear your fine voice from my inbox this morning, Dr Koppe. You've expressed many aspects of my own experience -- the satisfaction, doubts and sadness of being a rural GP -- salty like a breath of Lennox Head breeze -- thank you.   #Janelle Trees

Lennox Head NSW Australia

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Come With Me to Iowa City

I just looked at the program for the Examined Life Conference in Iowa City this month and can't believe I am not going to be there.
Here it is. If you are interested in Medical Humanities and are not going to be there the program will make you weep!

Our own Hilton Koppe will be there of course - but there is much, much more.

University of Iowa
I note that two of the editors of Pulse - voices from the heart of medicine, an online magazine which publishes health related literature, will be there talking about using writing to help take on the Goliath of the medical system. (To my knowledge two of our Creative Doctors have been published in Pulse. Here's a link  to a piece from 2011 by Dr Sue Ogle, geriatrician from Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney).
There are also sessions on memoir writing, using writing to help medical students, developing a writing program for residents and using literature to promote "reflection and discernment".


My eye was also taken by a session on knitting, but it turns out it is an essay on the metaphor of knitting as healing rather than a talk on knitting as therapy (a personal favorite of mine).

The conference is in my diary for 2016 already!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Howard Gwynne - Finding Work-Life Balance Through Photography

Creative Doctors has attracted the attention of freelance journalist Gabe McCauley (click here to read more of Gabe's work) who has offered to write a series of short profiles of creative doctors for the blog. Today he profiles the indefatigable  Howard Gwynne who is one third of our organising committee – the one who does all the hard work!

Dr Howard Gwynne
 Dr Howard Gwynne is a medical practitioner who has had a complex, lengthy and at times stressful career as a GP psychotherapist, among many other things. Relatively recently, Dr Gwynne has found a creative outlet which allows him to keep his equilibrium in a job that can be overwhelming. Through his photographic works, Dr Gwynne is able to explore various emotional states of being which allows him to reflect on his patients and his own mental wellbeing.
“Expressing yourself through writing or music or art is an excellent way of bringing balance into your life,” says Dr Gwynne.
The Sydney-based psychotherapist was inspired to take up photography seriously when he found new techniques for taking photos.
“My inspiration came from discovering that I had a camera which could take multiple exposures. This means that I can use the camera to take one picture on top of another,” he said. “It’s a way of making pictures have a lot more feel and texture and a lot more emotion.”
“I have an interest in using the multiple exposures to look at things like mental illness. I have had a couple of pieces published in the Medical Journal of Australia which reflect mental illnesses… such as anxiety and depression,” he said.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Well, zap my head with an electric fish!

I couldn’t resist this paragraph from an article in this week’s New Yorker about transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). 
What a great piece of writing!

The human drive to zap one’s head with electricity goes back at least to antiquity, and was originally satisfied by means of electric fish. “Headache even if it is chronic and unbearable is taken away and remedied forever by a live torpedo placed under the spot that is in pain,” the first-century physician Scribonius Largus wrote. He also used the torpedo, a species of ray native to the Mediterranean, to treat hemorrhoids. In the eleventh century, the Islamic polymath Avicenna reportedly recommended the placement of an electric catfish on the brow to counteract epilepsy. As late as 1762, a Dutch colonist in Guyana wrote that “when a slave complains of a bad headache” he should put one hand on his head and another on a South American electric eel and “will be helped immediately, without exception.”

Monday, 30 March 2015

Tell Us Your Story

Fifty posts down and a million more to go!

Dr Isabel McTigue -
star of our most popular post
Thank you all for taking the time to read the first fifty posts on the Creative Doctors blog. Thanks too to all those who have contributed information and ideas to keep us thinking about creative doctors and their activities, and creativity generally.

This post is both a celebration of our first half century of postings and an invitation to everyone to contribute to our blog.
If you are a doctor involved in creative activities of any kind we would love to hear about what you are doing and how you think it benefits you professionally and personally.

Contact us to tell your story via the contact form on right hand side of this page and watch this space to learn more about what your colleagues are up to in their leisure time

We also love to get your comments on the posts so just click on "Comments"  (or possibly "no comments") below and your thoughts will go to the moderator before they appear

Let's get a conversation going!