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Performing Medicine: The Expressive Body Workshop

A live workshop will demonstrate how theatre-based training techniques can benefit medical students as part of Arts Week, at Queen Mary, University of London on 29 April 2009.

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Performing medicine
Performing medicine

Although performance and medicine may not seem a likely pairing, since 2006 the Clod Ensemble - a contemporary theatre company based in London - has run Performing Medicine, a project that brings these two disciplines together.

Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and the Department of Drama at Queen Mary, University of London are also associated with the Performing Medicine project, which provides practical training to medical students and healthcare practitioners using the performing and visual arts.

“Like theatre, the medical consultation is a live event – a unique, unrepeatable moment in history.  Methods found in performance and theatre can help improve what we might call the ‘stage presence’ of our doctors – the way they present to patients and, indeed to each other,” explains Suzy Willson, Artistic Director of the Clod Ensemble and Honorary Senior Lecturer at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The ‘Expressive Body’ workshop, led by Suzy Willson, will concentrate on improving non-verbal communication and presentation skills such as: physical awareness, stamina, calm, balance, concentration, voice skills, confidence, listening and readiness for action.

Notions of scientific objectivity, says Suzy, sometimes make demands on doctors that divorce them from the reality of patient’s lives and bodily experiences.  Suzy also points out that medicine is not a pure objective science, and medics need to nurture interpretive skills and accept the subjective elements of their profession – especially in the interface with patients who might be very different from themselves.

“A poetic understanding of the body as physically expressive can sit beside a scientific model of analysis without compromising it.  Indeed this approach, the product of a dialogue between arts and science, can enrich the experience of a consultation for both doctor and patient,” she added.

The Clod Ensemble are now in the third year of the project and have delivered over 250 arts based workshops to medical students across London.

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