Monday, 18 November 2013

How Performing Medicine: The Anatomy Season might benefit medical students


Final year medical student, Sophie Fitzsimmons, looks forward to Performing Medicine: The Anatomy Season and the new perspectives it will bring to her medical training.

I'm Sophie, a final year medical student at Cardiff University, and I'm looking forward immensely to Clod Ensemble and Wales Millennium Centre’s Performing Medicine: The Anatomy Season here in Cardiff. There's a wonderfully broad range of events, bringing together some very diverse fields, and I think they will give an invaluable new perspective on my medical training.


A great example of this merging of fields is the Inside Information workshop with Prof Judith Hall, Dr Tracey Wilkinson and WNO singer Ros Evans. As a musician myself, I have to be particularly aware of my own body while performing, so I'm excited about learning about the anatomy of the human voice and seeing the application of anatomy to clinical situations - improving my anatomical knowledge, clinical skills and musical performance all in one evening!


In more broad terms, I hope these workshops, conversations and performances will help me improve my appreciation of the body from the two opposing viewpoints necessary in the practice of medicine. On one hand, as medical students, we learn to understand the body from a detached, anatomical point of view - the name and course of every muscle, bone and nerve, what is 'normal' for form, posture, and gait - so we can detect problems at a glance. This structured, clinical appraisal also allows us to depersonalise the body during those most invasive of medical acts, dissection and surgery.


On the other hand, we must also learn to appreciate the body as something deeply personal and private. During my recent placement in a GP surgery, I saw how awareness of my own and my patients' body language is a skill vital to successful doctor-patient communication.  I also learned how wonderful and important the 'laying on of hands' is. Patients who had only just met me would trust me with their bodies, and merely by examining them and finding no problems I was able to allay their fears and anxieties. We must earn that trust by learning to respect the human body and people's connection with it, as well as knowing its intricacies from an anatomical perspective. Even if must detach ourselves sometimes, we should always make sure we are able to re-personalise the body.


The use of the arts during the training of medical students - whether with literature, film, music, dance, the visual arts - is a technique that is sadly under-used in the UK. Not only is it an ideal way to communicate the human experience (helping us to understand both our patients and our response to them), but it is also a way to enrich us students as human beings and make us more approachable in the clinical environment - not just fact machines. I am hopeful that having The Anatomy Season here in Cardiff will stimulate further events exploring the relationship between art and medicine in the city and at the medical school.

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