8 March 2011
Venue: Perrin Lecture Theatre, Blizard Building, Whitechapel
With the best of motives, medicine has spent 20 years driving down the cul de sac of naïve rationalism with as much reflexive questioning of its own assumptions as Jeremy Clarkson on a test drive. Partly as a result of the dominance of epidemiology (which is, after all, big, quantitative, objective and heavily rule-bound, so it must be “robust”), medicine has come adrift from its humanistic roots, sold out to a reductive and technocratic model of professional practice and – some say – become the pawn of politicians and commercial interests. This lecture will draw on contemporary work in the humanities and social sciences to propose more fruitful directions of travel.
Professor Greenhalgh is dual qualified, having gained a BA in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge in 1980 (when critical theory was on every syllabus outside the hard sciences) and a medical degree from the University of Oxford in 1983 (when medicine was just beginning its tryst with “evidence”). She leads a programme of research at the interface between social sciences and medicine which seeks to celebrate and retain the traditional and humanistic aspects of medicine and healthcare while also embracing the unparalleled opportunities offered by science and technology to improve health outcomes and relieve suffering. Her work covers such diverse themes as reclaiming narrative and literature as legitimate components of the medical curriculum; exploring how “rationing” decisions are made when demand for NHS care exceeds the resources available; studying the social, political and ethical implications of new technologies such as networked electronic patient records; searching for better metaphors than “knowledge translation” to illuminate the complex links between research and clinical practice; and seeking to ensure that evidence-based medicine has enough, but not too much, influence on patient care.
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Image ‘Scientific Rationalism © Martin Thoburn’