We do not see clearly but hope is gold; R Handley
Infectious Love; K Turner
Emergency; A Lewis-Barned
Life; J Melgies
My Real Image; C Clarke
Unhappy for 9 years!; R Purcell
Slipper and the Shoe; S Saunders
Artist and educator
Louise Younie and Trevor Thompson
GPs and medical educators
Out Of Our Heads is a project by students and staff of University of Bristol Medical school to showcase creative work. It is often said that medicine is both Art and Science. In the modern medical curriculum there is a goodly amount of science. But what about the Art? What is it, is it important and should it be part of the curriculum?
We interpret the concept of the ‘Art of Medicine’ in two distinct ways. What people generally mean by the phrase is the aspect of medicine that involves the human touch. Going the extra mile, wisely interpreting the concerns and fears of the patient, treating folk kindly and non-judgementally, imagining what it is like to be on the wrong side of the desk.
The other interpretation is literally the Art of Medicine, that is the fine arts of literature, painting, music, sculpture, dance, applied to medical themes. It is a matter of fact that the themes that cluster round health and disease (death, loss, salvation, fate, serendipity, choice) are also those that preoccupy artists. So there is a real wealth of fine art that can inform us about the human response to disease.
But, perhaps uniquely, at Bristol, we believe that the best way to harness the Arts in medicine is to engage personally with medical themes through creative work. An artistic approach gets us to focus on the individuality of the situation, whereas in most of the course the focus is on the generic. It also, often, involves strong emotional responses in a culture where the intellect is most prized. Encountering and learning from (sometimes difficult) emotional responses is the high road to emotional intelligence.
An interest in the relationship between physiology and identity-construction developed when I pursued a B.A. and Masters in Fine Art, initially focusing on documenting facial expressions then later, exploring creative interpretation and the subtle dynamic between the sitter, artist and audience. My research then turned to supporting cognitive and emotional development in blind children through the use of sensory materials and immersion in the creative process.
Enquiry into biological systems, use of autobiographical texts by authors to share physiological challenges and belief in the positive role of the creative process within education led me directly to the Medical Humanities. Over the past four years I have worked closely with Dr Louise Younie at Bristol University contributing as an artist and researcher to the Creative Arts elective for medical students. I also contribute to the intercalated Medical Humanities B.A. programme at Bristol, a Diversity elective at Southampton medical school and I am involved a qualitative research programme to support post-stroke patients based at Bournemouth University.
My interest in the health/arts interface has been further deepened by taking up an artist residency at Louise Younie's G.P. surgery. This remarkable opportunity has helped me put my ongoing research into creative engagement and different ways of knowing into practice – drawing on the role of tacit knowledge, discourses around embodiment and whole-body intelligence
In 2009, Dr Trevor Thompson at Bristol University came up with the concept of creating a website to showcase and share the already extensive archive of medical student artwork - to be found at www.outofourheads.net. Trevor asked me to curate the archive and together we crafted a structure of over-arching categories which reflected issues and themes emerging from the student data. It was also a fascinating process to collaborate with Danny Van de Klee – a junior doctor who programmed the site. We combined our art/design resources to create a visual interface to reflect the discursive ethos of the website.
Trevor Thompson, Louise Younie and I share co-directorship and the OutofOurHeads! website is now evolving to include work from external sources such as patient insights and contributions from external academics, students and artists in related medical disciplines.
The work on this page reflects the creative endeavours of many medical students, each of whom is credited next to their piece; more of their and others’ work can be seen at www.outofourheads.net
I work part-time as a GP and part time at the University of Bristol within medical education. My learning from encounters with patients has fed back into my educational work with students. I run the first year medical student GP placement and introduced a creative option as an alternative to a reflective assignment. I also run the medical student elective ‘Creative Arts in Healthcare’ – where sessions are co-facilitated by a number of different arts tutors. This course formed the basis of my MSc thesis where I discovered the potential for medical humanities education to facilitate transformative learning.
I am currently in the process of finalizing my doctoral thesis - focusing on ‘arts-based inquiry in medical education’. My research draws on student creative work produced during their GP attachment. Through the dissertation I have developed a focus on student and patient voice expressed in their work and considered the ways to increase the degree of reflexivity and narrative humility that students access as they think about their patient encounters.
My doctoral research has led me personally deeper into the creative process - It has meant moving beyond music to taking the risk to also practically engage with sculpture.
Trevor rejoices in the job title of "Consultant Senior Lecturer in General Practice", though he is not regularly consulted, only feels senior and doesn't give that many lectures. What he might justly be called is an "educational entrepreneur" having pioneered a range of innovative courses and approaches within the medical curriculum. One is a short course for first year students entitled “Whole Person Care” (WPC). This, famously, requires students to submit artistic work as part of their formal assessment as well as delving into systems theory, mind-body connections and narrative approaches. The popularity of the course may possibly be judged by its on-going appearance in undergraduate satirical reviews.
Trevor has a long established interest in the role of the arts in medicine. He developed a short course in film studies, entitled “Doctors in the Movies”. These enterprises along with Out of Our Heads have been written up and published with colleagues under the ironic title of ‘Compulsory Creativity’.
On the more academic end of the Arts spectrum, Trevor co-developed a special one year degree for medical students in Medical Humanities in partnership with the University’s departments of Philosophy and English Literature. As of August 2010, four cohorts have gone through this programme and it is attracting students from across the UK. His latest arts project is a short course entitled “All the Ward’s a Stage: theatre-making for tomorrow’s doctors”, working with Madeleine Vose of ScriptUnScript.
More about Trevor Thompson.