Putting Theory into Practice: Exploring the role of Practice-based Medical Humanities (Conference, London, 29-30 November 2017)

Registration is now open for Putting Theory into Practice: Exploring the role of Practice-based Medical Humanities (29-30 November), hosted by Birkbeck’s Centre for Medical Humanities. For times, venues and registration details, please see the conference website.

The shape and future of medical education and practice has been under increasing scrutiny and continuing government and legislative intervention in the past 5-10 years, with a particular push towards standardising undergraduate and postgraduate medical curricula, as well as restructuring the NHS in an endless bid for ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability.’ In particular, the articulation of the driver of ‘professionalism’, as outlined most succinctly in the GMC’s ‘Gold Guide’ 2016 (the document which maps postgraduate medical speciality training), rolls humanistic and psychosocial skills and understandings into the requirements of clinical training and practice. Furthermore, in the light of recent highly-publicised ‘failings’ within our healthcare systems (for instance, the Mid-Staffs ‘scandal’) and the institutional responses to interrogate these incidents (for instance, the Francis Report), both NHS systems and the broader issues of ‘care’ and its provision, are under increased scrutiny in the UK.

Neither medical education nor the medicine practised within the systems of the NHS, are best equipped to teach or support humanistic and psychosocial skills, since both domains lack the vocabulary or conceptual frameworks with which we work within the humanities and social sciences. Medical humanities can and should be integrated into these discussions; there is an urgent need to expand the vocabulary and concepts available to medicine and its practitioners, and to consider the ways in which humanities’ and psycho-social understandings of health, illness, identity, affect, communication are as crucial to the work of the clinic as medical science.

Practice-based medical humanities is a transdiscipline in which the interrogations and insights of medical humanities actually find their way into the clinic and are made relevant and utilisable to biomedicine and its practitioners, to enhance patient care.

This conference will function as a starting point, an opportunity to open out the discussion of these major issues and challenges at a point where there is great social pressure and need to do so. It will seek to map the practice-based medical humanities for both practitioners and academics.

On Day 1, key eminent speakers from different clinical, academic and social domains will consider the role the medical humanities can and do play in clinical practice, research and education. On Day 2, we will hold an Open Space to draw up concrete proposals for the future directions of a Practice-based medical humanities.

Putting Theory into Practice: Exploring the role of Practice-based Medical Humanities has been supported by a Birkbeck/Wellcome Trust ISSF award.

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