Medical Humanities Symposium brings emerging field to BU

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BRANDON – Public talks by a pair of internationally renowned academics will be among the highlights of the Medical Humanities Symposium, taking place this week at Brandon University (BU).

Dealing with the connection between the arts and medicine, the symposium will be held on Thursday, Sept. 20 and Friday, Sept. 21. On Thursday, Dr. Daniel Laforest, of the University of Alberta, will present Synesthesia and Holism: The Importance of Literature in Medical Humanities on Thursday. The lecture will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Room 141 of the Dr. James & Mrs. Lucille Brown Health Studies Complex. On Friday at the same location, Dr. Lucille Toth will present “I Was Diagnosed With …” A Performative Conference on the Challenges of the “I” in the Medical Humanities. The talk will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“Dealing with the relationship between the arts and medicine, the medical humanities is an emerging discipline that combines the strengths of diverse fields to produce new ideas and insight,” said Dr. Eftihia Mihelakis, who is one of the symposium’s founders. “We are very excited to bring in leading experts in this area to spark discussion and thought in the community.”

Dr. Jonathan Allan and Dr. Ariane Hanemaayer joined Mihelakis in developing the symposium, and they hope that the event becomes a catalyst for greater study of the medical humanities at BU.

“One of the outcomes that we are hoping to realize as organizers is the development of a medical humanities research group at BU,” Hanemaayer said. “Through the combined efforts and areas of expertise of our faculty, we could produce work that would be groundbreaking for Manitoba.”

While the organizers all teach in the Gender & Women’s Studies program at BU, they have varying academic backgrounds and research activities. Hanemaayer also teaches in the Department of Sociology, while Mihelakis teaches in the Department of Classical and Foreign Languages. Allan is the Canada Research Chair in Queer Theory and teaches in the Department of English and Creative Writing.

“This symposium includes the participation of the faculty and staff from the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Education and the Library,” Allan said. “I think this is a real strength of the project.

“This isn’t an Arts-only approach. This is a made-at-BU story.”

Dr. Demetres Tryphonopoulos, the Dean of Arts at BU, seconds the symposium organizers’ enthusiasm for the future of medical humanities research.

“On the eve of what I hope will be the establishing of a Medical Humanities Institute, I would like to congratulate Drs. Allan, Hanemaayer, and Mihelakis for their imagination and enterprise,” Tryphonopoulos said. “An interdisciplinary field of Medicine that brings together the humanities and the arts in the context of medical education and practice, Medical Humanities is about to be introduced to the BU community through a symposium that will bring to BU two distinguished scholars in the discipline. It is my pleasure to support this event and to reconfirm my office’s commitment to encouraging the undertaking of such innovative, bold initiatives.”

Laforest is an Associate Professor of French and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics and was the recipient of the Jean-Éthier Blais Prize in 2011 for his work L’archipel de Caïn: Pierre Perrault et l’écriture du territoire. His talk will look at the struggle between nostalgia and aging.

Toth’s presentation will advocate the use of the first-person perspective in medical humanities work. Toth is an Assistant Professor in French and Italian at the Ohio State University and the founder of the dance project On Board(hers), which explores gender and global mobility.


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