Jane Macnaughton writes:

Hotel Galvez

Hotel Galvez

We’ve arrived in Galveston and have been put up at the historic seafront Hotel Galvez, which is still undergoing repair and renovation after Hurricane Ike in 2008.  In fact the hurricane is very much a central talking point for everyone.  All over the city houses are undergoing repair and many are still boarded up or for sale (see pictures).  Ike happened not long after Prof Howard Brody came to take over directorship of the Institute for Medical Humanities here and the accommodation the IMH occupied was devastated leading to a move of building.  It seems it is only now with the appointment of 5 new members of staff that IMH is beginning to make a recovery, along with the rest of the city.

We have had some marvellous meetings here with staff.  Notable were meetings this morning with Dr Rebecca Hester and Dr Mark Clark.  Rebecca has a doctorate in politics and a background in anthropology.  She has done ethnographic research looking at health programmes designed and implemented by indigenous groups from the Mexican State of Oaxaca living in California and is interested in the way health and health systems are framed by their contexts and habits.  She and Sarah had a lot to talk about!  Mark is a literary scholar who is developing a fascinating 8-stage approach to listening based on his interest in dialogic poetry such as the monologues of Tennyson and Byron.  We had only a short meeting with both of these fascinating scholars, but could do with hearing more.

Sarah and I then gave a presentation about projects and ideas that we are developing in the CMH and had a very sprightly engaged response from the audience of faculty and doctoral students.  Martyn and I had given an overview of the Centre, its development and structure the evening before, but the meat of what we are doing really brought our hosts alive.

We also spent an afternoon sitting in on Prof Anne Hudson Jones‘ class on medical narratives.The book under discussion was The Man with the Shattered World by A R Luria. This gives an account of a patient of the neurologist Luria who sustained a serious brain injury in the second world war, and of his struggle to live with the different sense of self he was left with. This is a book we must read. The generic reflection was on a distinction between ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’ writing about patient’s case histories. This book exemplified both, having straightforward medical accounts of the patient’s injury and its effects, and reflections upon the consequences for him as a human being.

Today we also managed to have a lunch meeting with Howard Brody and discussed a number of possible ways of extending our connection.  I certainly hope to welcome at least one member of staff from UTMB at Galveston to Durham very soon…


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