The iBAMH in 2020
The Intercalated BA in Medical Humanities was launched in 2006-7. Since then about 130 students, from various medical, dental and veterinary schools, have graduated. That decade and a half or so has seen many activities beyond the curriculum proper. Quite a while ago, the students worked with Arnos Vale Cemetery as part of a Wellcome Trust People Award, helping produce an education pack for local schools. Arnos Vale offered them the use of the Spielman Centre for what would be the first of their end-of-year exhibitions. The exhibition was noticed by the Evening Post, and awarded a ‘Pick of the Week’. A little later the exhibition moved to The White Bear (a pub), before arriving, in 2017, at the Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft's Space.
Some time along that journey the students helped workshop The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak, a Chamber Opera for Puppets, with Wattle and Daub Figure Theatre. They helped the company put on a day-long workshop / seminar / sample, ‘Performing the Freak’, at The Tobacco Factory. (Tarrare went on national tour in 2019, selling out its London run.)
The course itself has been featured in the University’s magazine, Nonesuch (‘Putting Literature into Practice’), and in its social media campaigns (‘Why do YOU love Bristol’). Every year the course has made new connections and, often, new friends. It has served as a marker, and sometimes as a catalyst, for the growing academic interest in the medical humanities within the University. There is now a Centre for Health, Humanities and Science helping support a whole new range of activities and research projects.
Every year since 2008 the students have enjoyed going to Medicine Unboxed, the cross-disciplinary conference held in Cheltenham. Some became helpers and, for a couple of years, speakers at that event. Sadly for us, Medicine Unboxed put itself on pause this year, presciently shifting some of its focus to online activities.
A couple of years ago, this introduction closed by saying that 'the students and graduates are [the course's] most valuable possession'. A good demonstration of that has been this year's creation of Medicine 360 by a group of graduates -- some still medical students, some junior doctors on wards, some further along in their careers -- and staff. This was planned as a week-long medical humanities festival here in Bristol, and medicine360.co.uk was a means of advertising it.
The arrival of a pandemic has changed things around. The festival could no longer run alongside the end-of-year exhibition, taking over its space in the evenings of this week, and occupying the Victoria rooms today, Saturday 13th of June, the day this group of pages went live. Instead, the exhibition has jumped on-line, and in the process helped the website to develop into something more resource-rich. If you look around the site's pages you'll find vets talking about COVID-19 and companion animals, reviews of poetry anthologies, poetry readings, a diary of a junior doctor on a COVID ward, and many other things.
So the intercalated BA in Medical Humanities again finds itself a part of a larger medical humanities community, this time virtual, and is grateful for it. The course remains an active, and slightly freewheeling degree. We hope this year that, being on-line, we may reconnect with more of our graduates and old-friends than before, and make more new contacts in far-flung places. Please do get in touch, if you like, and we hope you enjoy the exhibition and the site.