Morgan Blanc is currently on the University’s BM5 course in his fourth year (5th year of study after his intercalation). He speaks to Medically Speaking about undertaking the Medical Humanities module. A poem he wrote during the module is at the bottom of the page.
What were your first impressions when you heard about this module?
I was really excited to see that there were opportunities to explore the humanities in medical school! I had taken an A-level in English literature instead of the medical student A level of Maths – this module presented me with a way to continue engaging with the humanities while undertaking the BM5 course. I remember being rather excited about this module, especially as it seemed to cover all my areas of interest at the time. It offered both a challenge and a reward in presenting me with new and old ideas. The chance to understand these concepts further and deepen my appreciation of their applicability was one that I could not pass by.
How did it enhance your learning?
Given that this module was taken during my first year it allowed me to critically reflect on all I had learnt so far. I feel that sometimes medical students get lost in the endless learning of systems and charts; being able to break away from and engage critically with the role I was learning to take on was fantastic. In the moment the module itself did not make the Krebs Cycle any more appealing or the physiological nuance of the heart any easier to understand, but it did allow for the humanity in medicine to shine through these things. The module reframed the scientific into the humanities; it allowed for the (seemingly) unquestionable to be questioned. Maybe a better word would be reframe because this module reframed my learning in ways I was not able to appreciate fully until now.
How has it impacted on your medical experience – have you been able to use it in practice?
At first the practical applications of the medical humanities evaded me. Although it was interesting to study, I lacked the experience to which to apply the lessons I had learnt in this module. Then, on entering my third-year placements, I finally understood the applications of what I had been grappling with in this module. I saw patients who faced medical paternalism, I experienced consultants who did not have the time of day for me; in becoming immersed with the medical world, I constantly encountered situations that I could reflect upon using the lessons from this module! My approach to medicine and how I navigate the world of clinical placement Is heavily influenced by this module and the conversations I had with my peers during it.
What was your medical humanities project?
While I cannot quite recall what my final submission looked like (this module was cut short for me due to the first covid lockdown) – one aspect I remember quite clearly was submitting a series of poems that sought to explore the nature of a personified version of Pain. This is a big challenge for a medical student who had not had to engage creatively with a subject for a while! The process made me leave the relative comfort of the scientific system and step out into the uncertain world of the creative process. In writing the poems I found myself struggling to articulate a situation that people find themselves in everyday: experiencing pain. I had to delve down into my own experiences, the experiences of my friends and family, and ultimately try to place myself in the shoes the patient. In doing so I discovered the complexity of narrative and the challenge of articulating the unspeakable.