The Drama of Medicine: All the Ward’s a Stage
The Association for Medical Humanities
8th Annual Conference
University of Leicester
11 – 13 July 2011

Paul Lazarus, President of the Association for Medical Humanities reflects on the Association for Medical Humanities conference:

The party’s over- it doesn’t seem like three weeks since it all began. I think that this, the AMH’s  8th annual conference, has been the most eclectic of them all –  intentionally so.  The drama/stage metaphor encompasses all walks of medical humanities life, just as the real stage was the social lifeblood for the whole population in times gone by.  Thus, we saw presentations from the ‘environmental’ humanities, in particular architecture and design, alongside the more traditional discourses of literature, history and philosophy – right from the plenary addresses through to the parallel paper presentations.   Indeed, Paul Crawford’s talk on the health humanities made us realise that the field of what is commonly seen as the ‘medical’ humanities is much wider than we may think, and that there is sufficient confluence across these areas to allow meaningful and hopefully productive dialogue.

Many complimentary comments during, and emails after, the conference have been received, and between them contained a wide variety of the ‘highlight’ moments. All who attended were bowled over by Dannie Abse reading and talking through some of his poetry, and  the opening films workshop and plenary from Matthew Alexander certainly got delegates in the right frame of mind for the conference and set the tone of things to come.  As main organiser, I only wish that I could have attended more sessions than I was able to – but, as those of you who have organised such events will empathise – there was still a lot of looking after to do whilst the show was up and running.  Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to have nurtured this and see it blossom into fruition, and I am sure that my co-organisers Victoria Tischler (from Nottingham) and Sally Dux will agree.  However, I did have my highlight moments too – listening to David Gentilcore’s address on the licensed charlatans in Renaissance Italy made me think that the medical profession proper could have learned some valuable lessons here as it stumbles along its current road to revalidation and relicensing, and Laurie Maguire gave us an indication of how Jungian Shakespeare was in his concept of character, even though he was a good three centuries ahead of that time.

All who attended the conference dinner were enthralled by the entertainment provided by Leicester’s own ukulele ensemble – The Nukes – even with some audience participation, but I shall not name delegates here!

The conference, perhaps by its metaphoric labelling, attracted a wider range of delegates then previously.  More arts practitioners were encouraged to submit papers for presentation, and of course we had a good number of quality presentations by arts and medical students.  There was also a student lead conference, organised by three Leicester medical students held on the opening day of the main one, following on from the successful Truro initiative in 2010.

The AMH annual conference is now set to continue well into the future, with Cork and Aberdeen lined up for 2012 and 2013 respectively, and, following this year’s, an enquiry has already been made by a potential host for 2014.  Having used the Bard for the subtitle of this conference, if I may borrow from him again – give me excess of it.


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