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A festival of ideas for the curious medical practitioner

By Mindo - 23rd Jan 2019

Calling all dotMD fans… and those yet to experience our annual festival of medical curiosity. There’s some great news I’d like to share with you. dotMD, the festival of curiosity for doctors and healthcare practitioners who wish to look at medicine through reinvigorated eyes, will now be a two-day meeting. This September we’re moving to Galway and, in response to demand, we are doubling the content of the meeting.

During our successful run of annual one-day festivals at Smock Alley, we set out to reawaken a sense of curiosity about medicine that some may have lost along the way – and help them find deeper meaning and satisfaction in their working lives. We’re pretty confident we can repeat this as a two-day event, part sponsored by Abbvie, in the Bailey Allen Hall at NUI Galway on 13 and 14 September 2019.

How would we sum up this year’s event? A mixture of art, jazz, death, and zombies gives you a good flavour of what to expect ( did I hear someone at the back of the class say that sounds like a typical weekend in Galway!).

The art of empathy

We’re delighted to announce that renowned literary fiction writer Colum McCann will be joining us. The author of six novels and three collections of stories, he was born and raised in Dublin and now lives in New York. Among many international honours, he has received the National Book Award, the International Dublin Impac Prize, a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government and an Oscar nomination. Co-founder of the non-profit global story exchange organisation, Narrative 4, he says we are living now in the exponential age. This is defined by a sequence of rapidly punctuated evolutions, a sort of carousel of quickening, where everything is faster-smaller and faster-cheaper.

 According to Colum, “we like to think that we’re listening to one another, but are we really”? Looking forward to dotMD he says he will talk about what has happened to the art of listening and how might this apply to the world of medicine. 

Some of the questions he will ask include: Are our empathetic possibilities walled off? Have we become so atomised that the world of medicine also suffers from a lack of listening? How might we learn to make the imaginative leap into the world of others? And what can those in the medical profession learn from the stories their patients tell?

Other highlights

He told me he will also take a look at where might the world of literature cross paths in our daily medical lives. All in all, a mouth-watering reason to join us this September.

Listening to your feedback over the years, we know you value dotMD as a welcoming retreat where you can pause, relax, and reflect. To create this atmosphere we invite speakers who are thought-provoking, entertaining, and interesting.

Dr Kathryn Mannix, Palliative Care Physician and author, certainly fits the bill. Based in Newcastle, Kathryn has worked with many thousands of dying people, and has found their ability to deal with illness and death both fascinating and inspirational.

She plans to take us on a journey of discovery at dotMD. “I’d like us to get re-acquainted with the predictable, familiar process of dying; to work out how we can describe dying to patients in a way that offers comfort and hope; how to engage with palliative care for symptom management as a partner in medical care long before the end-of-life is approaching; how we can de-medicalise dying, and give it back to everyone,” she told me. And while still planning her presentation, there was a hint of something different in the form of an interactive cinema-clips rating game, which promises to be intriguing.

Viewing medicine with fresh eyes through the lenses of culture, the arts, philosophy and technology is a theme we try to remain faithful to as we plan a dotMD event. Alexa Miller, who joined us for a well-received presentation at an early dotMD event, teaches across the disciplines of medicine and the arts. We are pleased to welcome her back with a presentation titled: “Looking with Uncertainty: Inquiries into Visual Art, Practices for Good Medicine.”

She will describe for us how navigating uncertainty is the most important challenge that healthcare providers face in their daily work, and how the path to learning this art may be expedited and demystified in an unlikely place: Arts experiences. Alexa will share a framework for shifting uncertainty from an enemy to an ally for collaboration, discovery, and co-creation of health. “I’m thrilled to participate in dotMD again,” she said.

So that’s a flavour of just some of the speakers and performers Dr Ronan Kavanagh, Dr Alan Coss and myself have lined up for you this year. I’ll fill you in on the medical zombie bit (yes really!) next time.

Tickets for dotMD 2019 go on sale on 28 January at 18.00. Pre-register on so you don’t miss out. And look out for updates on the website or follow us on Twitter @dotmdconf.

Bígí linn i nGaillimh: September 13 and 14 2019.

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