14.11.2017

The First “The Doctor as a Humanist” symposium

The First “The Doctor as a Humanist” symposium

The first “The Doctor as a Humanist” symposium was held in Palma de Mallorca, Spain on October 13-14, 2017.
The Symposium was the result of the cooperation between five European and American universities: Sechenov (Moscow), Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona), Queens (Belfast) the UIB (University of the Balearic Islands), and John’s Hopkins University (Baltimore).
The event was hosted by the Scientific Foundation of the Medical Council of the Balearic Islands at the Royal Academy of Medicine, Balearic Islands and held under the auspices of the organising committee — Jonathan McFarland (Sechenov University), Alfonso Ballesteros (Scientific Foundation), Joaquim Gea (Pompeu Fabra), Irina Markovina (Sechenov University), Margaret Chisolm (John’s Hopkins University), and Annalisa Manca (Queens University).
The first DASH Symposium 2017 was opened with the following subtitle “Can the Humanities Transform 21st Century Medicine?”.
A number of participants were introduced as part of this year’s Symposium. These included an expert Committee, international students and practising doctors. The symposium brought together experts in the medical humanities and medical education from around the world (UK, Spain, Russia, Brazil, India, USA, Canada) along with medical students from the different participating universities. One of the main goals of the symposium, which is embedded in a wider pedagogic project, is to start up an International Association, which, among other things, wishes to develop ways to introduce the humanities into the medical curriculum and practice.
The event also helped to support collaboration between medical schools as well as encourage multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral cooperation, and was achieved not only through the Symposium proceedings, but also by the good attendance and incredible ambience at the different social events, which included a welcome reception, working lunches and cultural activity.
The Symposium program addressed leading approaches to integrating Humanities into medical education and workplace training and provided an opportunity to discuss and challenge some current practices.
The program was divided into three main sections; including Literature and Medicine, Arts and Medicine, and Medical Education and Humanities. These were interspersed with topical debates, coffee breaks, working lunches and a committee round up of the day’s sessions.
The Symposium was officially opened by the following speakers — Dr Maria Ramos (Director of Public Health, Balearic Islands), Dr. Macià Tomàs (President of the Royal Academy of Medicine, Balearic Islands), Dr. Antoni Bennasar (President of the Medical Council, Balearic Islands), Dr LLorenc Huguet ( Chancellor of the UIB), Dr. Alfonso Ballesteros (Director of the Scientific Foundation of the Medical Council, Balearic Islands) and Mr. Jonathan McFarland (Sechenov University).
And the event was officially opened with the following words from Mr. Jonathan McFarland:
“My aim, and that of all those who have supported me from the beginning, is that this symposium will begin to put the “heart and soul” back into medicine, and place the foundation stone for a global, multicultural collaboration that aims to put the humanistic back on equal footing with the scientific.”
The first section “Medical Education and Humanities” was chaired by Joaquim Gea from Pompeu Fabra University. The keynote to the talk stated that “in the doctor-patient relationship two different languages are used - the language of medicine and the language of emotions, so that medical educators have to teach young doctors to use the both”. Four interesting and intriguing speeches were given: Professor Wendy Reid (Director of Education, Health Education England) — “The state of medical education in England; can Humanities help?”, Professor Trevor Gibbs (Association Medical Education Europe) — “From Learning to practice: the importance of effective evaluation”, and Professor Manuel Pera (Autonomous University, Barcelona) — “The human viewpoint as a teaching tool to counterbalance the technological excess in the training of future physicians. A positive experience”, who closed his talk with a poem from TS Eliot - “The Hollow Men”:
“Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow.
Life is very
Long”.
The first section was concluded by Dr Lester Liao (Alberta University, Canada) — “Our story: How worldviews enchant the world of medicine”. He summed up the section with the idea that “the disenchantment of medicine is the consequence of the loss of the appreciation for what humanities are doing ”.
The next section “Arts and Medicine” was chaired by Annalisa Manca ( Queen’s University, Belfast) where the principal idea was that “Patients need wisdom and wisdom comes from introducing the humanities into medicine”.
Other thought-provoking speakers elaborated on this tenet and gave naturally curious answers to the dozens of questions that medicine gives us to think over.
Professor Tim Dornan from Queen’s University, Belfast while “Taking people to better places. Music and health” criticised medical educators for their “obsession with the curriculum”, and quoted Einstein: “not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that is counted counts”. He added: “Music is intrinsic to the human brain <…> it can cure one’s emotional blindness”.
Assoc. Professor Margaret Chisolm from John’s Hopkins University, Baltimore — “Bedside Education in the Art of Medicine”: “Art creates a safe place where students can find the reflections to their feelings. It shines a light on what it means to be human for both patients and doctors.”
Professor Hedy. S. Wald from Brown University, Providence — “Reflection, Resilience, Humanism”: “Reflection on being means training the mind and heart through writing. <…> When a patient is ill the story helps them to understand and interpret their current experience — it also helps us to avoid burning out. <…> Guided reflective writing covers all the aspects of humanities.”
The last of the first day of the Symposium “Literature and Medicine” was chaired by Irina Markovina from Sechenov University, Moscow. Professor Brian Hurwitz, King’s College, London “How a twentieth-century photo-roman speaks to the Health Humanities”, Professor Jacek Mostwin, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, “Ways of living the medical life: physician memoir and biography as a resource for the rest of us”, Professor Sabah Hussein, McGill University, Montreal, “Humanist Medicine in historical perspective: from Ibn Khaldun to Chris Giannon” Professor Manuela Vianna Boeira., e Federal University of Rio Grande de Sul, Brazil “Understanding Bipolar Disorder and Neuroprogression through Virginia Woolf: An overview”
The second day of the DASH Symposium was different. There was only one plenary speaker, with the onus primarily being on “working together” to digest the intense series of proposals posed during the first day. Professor Marcos Nadal ( UIB), a psychologist interested in neuro-psychology, gave a fascinating presentation entitled “Reconciling Humanities and Science: the impact of design features on emotion, behaviour and physiology”, which led onto the “hackathon”. During this section, the participants elaborated on the question of the Symposium: “Can the Humanities transform 21st Century Medicine?”, using the themes that had emerged from the previous day’s sessions (Medical Education and Humanities, Arts and Medicine, Literature and Medicine) as the basis for the topics discussed in the groups, which were made up of plenary speakers, students and symposium attendees. To some extent, the hackathon aimed to lead the direction of the future “The Doctor as a Humanist Project”. Another difference was that during the second day an Artist-in-Residence, Sandra Renzi, had been working on her painting, which was a reflection of the ideals of the symposium and the association.
After the presentation of the hackathon results, the guiding principles for the newly formed The Doctor as a Humanist association were proclaimed:
1. Medicine is an art, based on both humanistic and scientific principles.
2. The humanities are as important to the practice of medicine as the science.
3. Humanistic patient care is the primary goal to which all doctors must strive.
4. Doctors’ lifelong learning in both the humanities and science is imperative for serving patients.

The Organising Committee ended the meeting with opinions and take-home messages.
Jonathan McFarland concluded: “Thanks to all for helping to make this dream come true; the “star is officially dancing” — but never forget that this is just the beginning!”