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Clinical Communication

Medical Humanities

Medical Humanities is offered through a programme of SSC options taught by staff in the Department of Medical Education alongside associate tutors with special interest in film, art and literature.

Students may select the SSC in Year 2 MBBS on 'Medicine and Art' on the evolving cultural and social history of attitudes to the human body, reflected through visual art by cutting edge artists and thinkers from ancient times until today. A full programme of seminars and workshops with tutors, patients and visiting artists comprise the SSC.

In MBBS Year 3 students may select the SSC on 'The Literary Doctor' in which communication, observation and perception of the doctor-patient relationship is carefully considered through reading classic Literature and creative writing. Alternatively students may select the SSC on 'Madness and Literature' to develop their insight into psychological suffering and treatment of mental health discussed in peer group seminars.

In Year 4, the extremely popular SSC in 'Medicine and Film' challenges students to think about how patient experience, and perception of the medical world, is universally interrogated in film in different cultural and ethnic societies. Alternatively the ever-popular SSC in 'Performing Medicine' offers students an enjoyable series of workshops with lots of practical skills in overcoming issues around confidence, self expression and professional presentation.

Students with a strong interest in developing their capacities as thoughtful practitioners with an interest in the Humanities may follow the whole programme of SSC's. Students are strongly encouraged to take at least one Medical Humanities SSC during their education and training. All courses are designed to be educational and enjoyable, taught alongside peers, to broaden a student's medical and clinical capacities towards their future patients and others under their care.

Further information about the 5 individual SSCs offered as part of the Medical Humanities programme can be found below.

Medical Humanities Programme of SSC's

(MUS2036) Medicine and Art: Representing the body
Combining scientific and artistic understanding of the body

The human body has been represented in Fine Art since classical times and is as much a subject of fascination today as it ever was. The world’s most renowned artists, including Leonardo da Vinci and Lucien Freud, have combined artistic methods and scientific knowledge which documents for us an evolving observation of the human condition. This is explored through taught weekly sessions led by lecturers in Art and Anatomy and guest artists. Morning sessions are followed by afternoon gallery visits to the Wellcome trust, Tate Modern, V&A and the National Gallery, as well as a practical session with a life drawing model. Assessed by a reflective study portfolio and oral presentation, this runs in MBBS Year 2 semesters 1 and 2.

Lead Tutors: Dr Veronica Vossen and Ms Michelle Cussens (convenor)

“I have nothing but good things to say about this SSC. The lecturers have all been fantastic and informative. The material has been easy to engage with and interesting. There has been a wide range of activities over the course and I feel I have learnt so much.”

“I have thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this SSC and found each session interesting! I would like to have the opportunity to choose a similar SSC in the future.”

(MUS4610) Madness and Literature: Mad, bad and dangerous to know?
Exploring madness and melancholy in classic and modern literary texts

Literary texts are able provide intimate insights into psychic life to open up our perception of experiences of psychological suffering and treatment. This course considers a series of classic texts from the eighteenth century to the present day, including Frankenstein, L'Étranger and Darkness Visible. Each student will also research an additional text as a psychological case study and present their ideas as a 10 minute presentation to the group. Taught weekly sessions are led by lecturers in Literature, Psychiatry and Medicine. Assessed by a 3500 word essay and oral presentation, this runs in MBBS Years 2, 3, and 4.

Lead Tutors: Ms Michelle Cussens and Dr Alison Stenton

“A very enjoyable module! It made a lovely change from the usual science side of medicine we are taught here - next step should be a medical humanities intercalated degree!”

“I thought that the topic of choice (madness in Medicine) is very appropriate especially for year 3 students, and it was nice to have something associated to medicine to read, but different from our everyday work.”

(MUS3354) Literature and Medicine: The literary doctor
Reading the doctor patient encounter in literary texts

There has long been a relationship between Medicine and Literature with a number of outstanding writers who trained in Medicine. Writers and poets - including Mikhail Bulgakov, William Carlos William, Anton Chekhov, Somerset Maugham and Oliver Sacks – have taken up the mantel of ‘literary doctor’ combining a dual perspective on patient encounters both as writer and as doctor. Further writers such as George Orwell, Franz Kafka, Raymond Carver and Virginia Woolf have provided lay perspectives. These works offer students the opportunity to reflect upon professional issues arising from everyday encounters experienced in clinical practice. Small group sessions are taught weekly, in addition to a practical session on creative writing for clinical practice. Assessment is by a portfolio of creative writing and oral presentation, this runs in Year 3, rotations 1, 2, 3 4.

Lead Tutor: Ms Michelle Cussens

(MUS4676) Medicine and Film: Framing doctors and Illness
Analysis of classic and world cinema on illness and healthcare

Documentary and drama, classic and world cinema; Film is a hugely impactful medium capturing individual lives, their challenging stories of illness and healthcare experience across cultures. These taught group sessions look at the controversies and consequences of such representations as well as enabling students to develop an ability to critique and analyse film content and language under the guidance of film specialist, Brian Glasser (author of Medicinema: Doctors in Films). Students will also develop an oral presentation looking at an aspect of healthcare or illness represented in Film. Assessment is by a portfolio of film reviews and oral presentation, this runs in Year 4 rotation 1.

Lead Tutors: Mr Brian Glasser and Ms Michelle Cussens (convenor)

“I thought this SSC was very well planned and thought out. It not only is effective and a good medium to learn through, but broadens student’s horizons on medicine in the everyday world. I couldn't recommend this ssc enough if you like medical humanities!”

“This was one of my favourite ssc’s! It was my first time doing a humanities-based ssc and I had a very positive experience. It helped me exercise a whole other part of my brain and allowed me to come to a greater knowledge of perception of medicine and doctoring.”

(MUS3353) Arts in Healthcare: Performing medicine
Developing professional skills for medical practice

Disciplines in theatre training can offer a vital crossover with Medical practice, practiced through this series of workshops to help students in a practical manner to develop their professional presentation, vocal and communication skills. Run in collaboration with an acclaimed theatre company (The Clod Ensemble) workshops utilise theatre and movement techniques in voice, touch, non-verbal communication, power and status, to increase awareness of how participants move, speak, see, interpret and analyse. Assessment is by a 3500 word reflective portfolio and oral presentation, this runs in Year 4 rotation 1.

Lead Tutors: Dr Brian Lobel, Dr Suzy Willson and Ms Michelle Cussens (course convenor)

“Fantastic SSC, nothing else like it to teach medical students the seriously under-taught skills of self-confidence, communication and dealing with nerves, as well as providing a different, new and creative outlook on medicine.”

“This was the best SSC I have ever completed and I would recommend it to all students. Thank you so much for running this SSC at kings, it has been life changing!”



If you have any further enquiries please email Michelle Cussens.

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