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.