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Return of the Electric Picnic of medical conferences

By Dr Muiris Houston - 07th Jun 2022

dotMD meeting

There is much to look forward to at the upcoming dotMD meeting.

We are just weeks away from the first dotMD conference to take place AC (After Covid). The excitement is definitely building and along with the usual smidgen of anxiety, Ronan, Alan, and I are really excited and cannot wait to see everyone on June 17 and 18 in Galway. 

We’ve certainly managed to land some big names for this year’s event. Tommy Tiernan hardly needs an introduction. The winner of a Perrier Award, he stars in Channel 4’s Derry Girls, and is the host of one of Ireland’s best-known chat shows on RTÉ. The premise of The Tommy Tiernan Show is that he has no idea who his guests will be until they walk out onto the stage, with no pre-prepared questions or research carried out in advance. His intense curiosity, natural empathy, fearlessness, and humour make him a compelling interviewer. 

Just to add a little spice to the occasion Prof Roger Kneebone will interview Tommy. Prof Kneebone is the author of Expert: Understanding the Path to Mastery and is the host of the Countercurrent podcast where he has conversations with a wide range of interesting people, often drawing parallels between their careers and his own in medicine. Described in The Guardian as “the doctor stitching together medicine and art” he has also written in The Lancet on improvisation in medicine. 

Prof Kneebone’s interview style echoes that of Tommy Tiernan – unscripted, free flowing conversations with little formal preparation – so it will be fascinating to see the tables turned on one of Ireland’s funniest and most innovative people. Who knows where this conversation between comedy and medicine might go? 

Our own Sarah Fitzgibbon, founder of (Women in Medicine in Ireland Network) and, of course, a columnist with the Medical Independent, will interview American author and physician Dr Suzanne Koven. As well as the interview, I am really looking forward to Suzanne’s presentation ‘Why storytelling matters in medicine and why you should write a book’. 

Suzanne was born and raised in New York City. She received her BA in English literature from Yale and her MD from Johns Hopkins. After her residency training at Johns Hopkins Hospital, she joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School and has practised primary care internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for over 25 years. In 2019 she was named inaugural writer in residence at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, The New Yorker, Psychology Today, The LA Review of Books, The Virginia Quarterly, STAT, and other publications. Her essay collection, Letter to a Young Female Physician, was published by WW Norton & Co in 2021. Suzanne conducts workshops, moderates panel discussions, and speaks to a variety of audiences about literature and medicine, narrative, and storytelling in medicine and women’s health. Without a doubt, she is one of the big draws for this year’s dotMD. 

Those with fond memories of Dr Steven Schlozman’s previous appearance at dotMD will be pleased to welcome him back to Galway. A psychiatrist, medical educator, and novelist, he will address the way film has changed its presentation of health, especially mental health, over the last couple of decades. He will also explore how certain types of film can even help to destigmatise illness. He will be joined by GP Dr Austin O’Carroll for a presentation titled: ‘Are we the cart or the horse?’ And dotMD favourite, bedside stories, will be back, featuring Dr Sumi Dunne, Dr Rita Doyle, and John Quin. 

Yours truly is looking forward to a chat with poet and medical educator Martin Dyar. As well as a presentation titled ‘Vital signs: Poetry and the making of doctors’, Martin and I will talk about his forthcoming anthology Vital Signs: Poems About Illness and Healing. Poetry wouldn’t be a natural milieu for me so it will be a fascinating exploration of the world of poetry and medical learning. 

And I am so excited to be chatting with a guru of narrative-based medicine, Dr John Launer. A fellow board member of The European Narrative Medicine Society, John is a proponent of the best of patient-focussed narrative medicine. Author of the book, How Not to be a Doctor and Other Essays, he set up ‘conversations inviting change’ as a way to facilitate the life-long learning of communication skills by doctors. Our session is titled ‘Why are doctors so difficult’, which could see us hounded out of the Bailey Allen Hall by the dotMD audience – watch this space! 

How many conferences feature a Booker Prize winner? We are honoured to have author Anne Enright join us this year to discuss the topic of trust. 

There are many more great speakers of course. In-person tickets are sold out, but registration for virtual attendance is still available at 

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