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Picture of Rejuvenating Medical Education

Rejuvenating Medical Education

Seeking Help from Homer

Author(s): Robert Marshall, Alan Bleakley

Book Description

Returning to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey for inspiration, this book uses these epics as a medium through which we might think imaginatively about key issues in contemporary medicine and medical education. These issues include doctors as heroes, and the legacy of heroic medicine in an age of clinical teamwork, collaboration and a more feminine medicine. The authors challenge ingrained habits in medical education, such as the way we characteristically “train” medical students to communicate with patients and colleagues; the reduction of compassion to the “skill” of empathy; the rote recital of the medical history as a “song”; and the new vogue for “resilience” as response to increasing levels of stress and burnout in the profession.

A Homeric lens also shows new ways of thinking about translation of medical lingo into patients’ understanding, the relatively high levels of anger and error shown in clinical interactions, and modern phenomena such as “whistleblowing” in the face of unacceptable error or misbehaviour. While exhaustion and burnout are becoming more common in medicine, the authors ask if a more lyrical, rather than epic and tragic stance, might benefit medical work.

Drawing on a wealth of experience in the field, the book promotes a new kind of medicine and medical education fit for the 21st century, but envisages these through the ancient lens of Homer’s two epics. In the heroic glory elaborated in the Iliad and the themes of homecoming and hospitality set out in the Odyssey, Homer provides a narrative arc that is a blueprint of modern medicine’s development from a heroic endeavour to a contemporary collaborative provision of hospitality, where the hospital remains true to its name and doctors engage in work of care rather than “fighting” disease with the hospital as battleground.


ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-9564-4
ISBN-10: 1-4438-9564-4
Date of Publication: 01/08/2017
Pages / Size: 325 / A5
Price: £68.99


Robert Marshall has been a consultant pathologist for 30 years at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals, where he was Director of Postgraduate Medical Education, and is an Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Exeter Medical School, UK. He has published 45 book chapters and articles in pathology and medical humanities. He was a founder member of the Association for Medical Humanities, of which he was secretary from 2005-8, and is currently helping to develop links between Exeter Medical School and Wollega Medical School in West Ethiopia.

Alan Bleakley is Emeritus Professor of Medical Education and Medical Humanities at the University of Plymouth Peninsula School of Medicine, UK. He is an internationally recognised figure in the fields of medical education and medical humanities with a strong research portfolio and publications record. He was President of the Association for Medical Humanities from 2013 to 2016.