Digital Week Four: Medical Humanities

For the fourth week of TORCH Goes Digital, we focused on "Medical Humanities", a theme that is particularly relevant to us all today, given the global Covid-19 pandemic. Medical humanities uses ideas, tools and methods from disciplines such as history, art, philosophy, theology and literature to help create innovative strategies for understanding and improving health and healthcare. Drawing on sources that typically cut across and complement prevailing modes of health-related thinking, the field seeks to explore the social and cultural context surrounding the purposes and challenges of medicine and healthcare.
Popular content considered questions of whether burnout is exclusively a disease of modern life, and how reading affect eating disorders, for good or ill. We also looked at tales of neurodivergence and mental difference in Oxford and examined the role of compassion in healthcare. In one podcast we shared, Professor Joshua Hordern discusses personalised medicine as part of an event organised by Oxford Healthcare Values Partnership. In a fascinating article Why I'm bringing poetry (back) into the NHS, Dr Sophie Ratcliffe discusses the need for poetry, its place in “our common humanity” and its “unique ability" to “capture the creative spirit of the human mind”.
The introduction of anaesthesia in medical practice is generally attributed to American dentist William Morton, who gave a public demonstration in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1846. However, recent research indicates that a crucial attempt was carried out by apothecary Robert Boyle in Oxford almost two centuries earlier. Dr Alessia Pannese explores a painted documentation of a relatively little known event in Oxford local history: the first intravenous anaesthesia during this TORCH Bite-Size talk at the Ashmolean Museum LiveFriday
Through highlighting some ethnographic examples and lessons from contemporary placebo research, Austin Argentieri discusses how phenomenology allows us to move beyond the distinction between biological disease and embodied illness to examine how social relationships, history, and embodied experience alter human biology and the evolution of viruses.
Finally, our Livestreamed Event for the Big Tent, Big Ideas series went incredibly well. We were fortunate to have Professor Sally Shuttleworth and Professor Erica Charters speak on "Invalids on the Move". At a time when we are all locked down in our homes, Sally Shuttleworth and Erica Charters took a look, both serious and light-hearted, at the treatment of health and disease in the past, and particularly the period from the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries when invalids were actively encouraged to travel.


Medical Humanities Infographic