In their fourth year, students at Exeter Medical School undertake a Medical Humanities Longitudinal Special Studies Unit. Since 2018/19 I have been one of a number of SSU Providers, each of us with 4-6 students. Through our different Humanities disciplines – from poetry to philosophy, composition to conceptual art, life drawing to Lego serious play – we aim to encourage and help our students to reflect on their training and practice.
In 2020/21 I ran group and 1-1 sessions over Zoom during three weeks in September, December and March, and provided additional guidance where required. I also encouraged the students to use Slack to share their processes, from an initial bouncing around of ideas to mock-ups to the almost final work, and feed back on each others’ work. If it were not for the pandemic, there would have been a conference in June to evaluate and celebrate the students’ work. Instead, all the SSU groups were paired off, and in the two groups presented their work to each other over Zoom.
During the first two years, it was one of the most life-giving things I did, and a great privilege. 2020/21 was more of a struggle, and made me realise how important the dynamics of the initial group meeting were, and so vital to exploring the questions together. I’ve therefore decided to take at least 2021/22 off, in the hope that in two years we might be able to meet together once more.
- The SSU in 2018/19
- Follow-up exhibition of the students’ work at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health
- The SSU in 2019/20
About the Medical Humanities unit
The students presentations in the padlet embedded below show the variety of the different units led by different tutors, from my use of conceptual art, to eg poetry, clay, or theatre as mediums.
“Live the questions now: control, connectedness and making conceptual art”
- Ask questions about who we are, the world we live in, and how we live in it, and learn to see the world in a different way.
- Gain a deeper appreciation of nature, and humans in our natural context.
- Create thought-provoking art.
What the students produced
As in previous years, my students produced a great variety of work.
- One piece used collage to depict the layers of mental health and how it impacts on the body, based around the story of abuse in US gymnastics.
- Another adapted Hokusai’s painting “Great Wave” to visualise the data on evolving COVID-19 infections and deaths in Devon.
- A third incorporated the words of interviews with women before and after giving birth in a painting that showed how they struggled under COVID and lockdown.
- Finally, a series of photographs of medical masks littering urban and more natural settings explored the culture of disposability.