Friday, 29 November 2013

Sophie Fitzsimmons and Kitty Hardman review Tuesday night's conversation 'Anatomy Acts'

Sophie Fitzsimmons

This ‘conversation’ event brought up fascinating points that really made me think differently about my medical education and practice.

The first speaker, Dr Gianna Bouchard, an academic who lectures on drama, gave a brief overview of the history of anatomy (specifically dissection) as performance – from the ‘anatomy theatres’ of the Enlightenment to the modern-day spectacles of Gunther Von Hagens. This talk brought me back to my time in the dissection room at the start of medical school – how privileged and excited I felt not only to be carrying on a medical tradition hundreds of years old, but to be allowed to explore this body which had been given for the purpose of my education.

The second speaker, Prof Roger Kneebone, a surgeon, brought up two themes that really captured my interest – firstly, the concept of surgery as a carefully choreographed dance or show, with the patient as both participant and audience (a concept that could indeed be expanded to the whole of medicine); and secondly, of the importance in medicine and surgery of learning through experience. No real body will ever be as perfect and tidy as the glossy images in our textbooks; the cadavers we encounter during dissection (though imperfect, messy and ‘real’) are not the same as a warm, breathing, living person. The practice of medicine is impossible to communicate fully through words and images – the real learning we do through our hands and the co-operation of our patients.

The final speaker, Brian Lobel, a performer and writer inspired by his experiences as a cancer patient, gave an account of his experiences and feelings while going through various medical investigations. It was eye-opening to hear about a patient’s changing view of their body in illness as well as their feelings of passivity while in the hands of the doctors – a viewpoint that is vital for doctors to understand (but one that is sadly rarely discussed) and one I am keen to explore further. 

These absorbing talks brought up many more issues than can fit into one blog post! I’ll just finish by saying I am very much enjoying thinking about medicine and the body from these new angles, and I’m looking forward to continuing this alternative exploration of anatomy during the main event (An Anatomie In Four Quarters) this weekend. 

Kitty Hardman:

Last night’s conversation between Dr Gianna Bouchard (principle lecturer in drama at Anglia Ruskin University), Brian Lobel (play write and performer) and Professor Roger Kneebone (surgeon, clinician and educationalist at Imperial College London) saw a great convergence of medioscientific and artistic minds.

I was fascinated by the points made on focus and perspective. In one regard the patient is the principle focus, as depicted by images of surgeons huddled around the boxed off fleshy square of the patient but in another sense the personality of the patient is completely out of focus; unconscious with no voice. Discussion about the patient, their body; their illness continues without them being involved or even aware. However, as Professor Kneebone pointed out, the advancements in medical technology will see a shift in this perspective. A patient receiving vascular treatment under interventional radiology may not only be awake with a voice but also conscious of the instantaneous benefit that the procedure can bring.  I am fascinated as to how the medical profession will respond to this change in the patient-physician dynamic and am intrigued to see if my future medical education will reflect this.

I can’t wait to see the performance: An Anatomie in Four Quarters to see the coming together of music, performance and art under the spectacle and wonder of the human body.

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