The dotMed conference aims to reconnect with the art and humanity of medicine
What do a novelist and playwright, a comic artist and writer, a photographer, a medical ethicist and a social media expert have in common? They are all medical doctors and all appeared at the dotMED conference which was held in the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin last month.
The conference was founded by Dr Ronan Kavanagh, consultant rheumatologist and Dr Muiris Houston. Kavanagh says the event was born out of a sense of boredom and unfulfillment with traditional medical conferences, which are largely science- and data-based.“We also felt there was a need within ourselves and amongst our colleagues to try and reconnect with everything that is great in medicine. So dotMED is a meeting designed to inspire and re-enthuse doctors about their medical calling. We do that by exploring the spaces within medicine and between medicine and other disciplines,” he says.
Deborah Bowman, professor of bioethics, clinical ethics and medical law and dean of students at St George’s University of London, gave a thought-provoking presentation entitled Staging Medicine: Theatrical Perspectives on Health.
In her talk, she drew parallels between the art of medicine and theatre and underlined the importance of patients and doctors making a real connection in consultation.
Bowman described the patient-doctor consultation as a “mysterious, unique and special interaction” that could create hope in situations that appeared hopeless and could offer solace where there had not been any. That, she said, had “unique transformative power”“Ultimately, a human being sitting with you in a dark moment or listening to you without judgment when you have been frightened is as therapeutic as any amount of prescribing. We don’t talk about it and we don’t value it as much as we could.”
As well as the art of medicine, other art disciplines were also celebrated at dotMED, which featured a photographic exhibition as well as a live music performance by Irish musician Colm Mac Con Iomaire.
The photographic exhibition Limits was shown as part of the conference. In it, Dr Leticia Ruiz Rivera, a palliative care physician from Spain, portrayed the deeply human effects of on-call hours on junior doctors.Ruiz Rivera photographed junior doctors before and after a long and arduous on-call shift. While the before photographs show smiling young professionals, the effects of fatigue and stress can be clearly seen etched in the same faces in the photographs taken immediately after a shift.
Other artists featured included Ian Williams, a GP and comic artist from the UK, whose critically acclaimed graphic novel The Bad Doctor was published in 2015. He also pens a regular comic strip Sick Notes for the Guardian.
At a time when doctors and healthcare workers are under increasing pressure and the health service is often the subject of bad news, the focus of dotMED is a reminder of the value of humanity in human medicine and the need to treasure it indefinitely.