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Research in medical humanities is taking a radical new turn. Not content to be the ‘handmaiden’ of clinical practice, we are now getting engaged in the complexities of clinical science, aiming to work alongside colleagues who are seeking to answer some of the most difficult questions in clinical practice. For example, the symptom of breathlessness presents a dilemma in that symptom experience does not correlate well with measured lung function. In this lecture I will describe how an interdisciplinary medical humanities project combines research and insights from across humanities, social science and clinical science to understand this problem. Avoiding destructive ‘two culture’ clashes we have developed collaborations that we hope will improve the lives of patients.
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Jane Macnaughton is Professor of Medical Humanities at Durham University in the UK and Director of the University’s Institute for Medical Humanities (IMH). She has been centrally involved in the development of medical humanities in the UK since 1998. Most recently she conceived the idea of the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research which was established on the back of a meeting she initiated at Durham in February 2013 with the purpose of strengthening the visibility of medical humanities research and encouraging collaboration across universities in the North of England, including Liverpool, and Scotland.
Jane currently holds two large awards from Wellcome: a Development Grant for the Centre for Medical Humanities. and a Senior Investigator Award for her project, the Life of Breath. She sits on the Wellcome Trust Expert Review Group for established career awards in medical humanities. Her research focusses on the idea of the ‘symptom’: its initial appearance, development and evolution in connection with medical contexts, habits and technologies. She continues to be clinically active and is an Honorary Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University Hospital of North Durham.