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Abstracts and speaker biographies

MICHAEL BAVIDGE: Speaking of Suffering

Abstract: How can we speak of experiences as intense as pain and suffering? It may seem that there is a private incommunicable reality that gets left out of conversation. This talk will explore the idea that we speak out of our experiences before we speak about them. The dynamics of conversation is inseparable from its content. We address each other. People have thresholds and margins. What we withhold and what inhibits us, as well as what we express, makes mutual understanding possible. We can hope for trust and confidence in each other; we neither need nor want certainty.

Biography: Michael Bavidge was a lecturer in philosophy at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, Newcastle University. Since his retirement he has continued to teach on the Philosophical Studies Programme at the university. He has written on psychopathy and the law, pain and suffering, and animal minds. He is the President of the Philosophical Society of England which brings together academic and non-academic philosophers who believe in the importance of exploring philosophical ideas and their relevance to our social and personal lives.


MICHAEL FARQUHAR: The Raveled Sleave of Care


“Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep', the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast,--"

Biography: Dr Michael Farquhar trained in general paediatrics, respiratory medicine and sleep medicine at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (Glasgow), Nottingham Children's Hospital, The Children's Hospital at Westmead (Sydney), Sydney Children's Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital (London). He has been a consultant in sleep medicine at Evelina London since 2012. He works in both the general and hypersomnia clinics, and the diagnostics sleep study service. He also works with other departments to assist colleagues in caring for children experiencing sleep difficulties due to complex medical issues. Dr Farquhar is also involved in educating healthcare professionals on the importance of sleep, with a focus on sleep for staff working night shifts. External departments wishing to request teaching in these areas should contact Dr Farquhar's secretaries to discuss this. Dr Farquhar is a member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The British Paediatric Sleep Association, the British Sleep Society, the European Sleep Research Society and the British Paediatric Respiratory Society.


BETSAN CORKHILL: Pain signals and other bad language – time to start weighing up your words wisely

Abstract: It is said that ‘Sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us.’ However, words do harm. They get into your subconscious and permeate your thoughts. Many of the words still routinely used to educate people about pain promote a misunderstanding of how pain works. The language used in consultations, letters and articles can prolong pain and make people fearful of moving whereas carefully chosen words can encourage healing, movement and a return to everyday living as well as keep hope alive. In this session we will look at how words can promote inaccurate beliefs about pain and its core mechanisms. Words on their own have the power to trigger and prolong pain, anxiety and stress. The right words could be our most powerful resource so it is important to consider carefully the words we use in all communications. How you talk to yourself is important too. The words that flow through your mind can make you ill or help to promote wellbeing. How do you talk to yourself? How does your patient talk to themself? The brain is listening to it all, and it all goes into the mix of that complex conversation that determines the decisions your brain makes on everything, including on whether to make pain or not. It causes great confusion when some organisations, clinicians and articles continue to use out-dated language so it is time to consider the words we use and the importance of speaking the same language. You have a lot of power in what you say and write so it’s time to start weighing up your words wisely.

Biography: Betsan is a Wellbeing Coach specialising in helping people with long-term medical conditions, particularly pain. She has an extensive background in health and physiotherapy. Her many years of clinical experience enable her to combine coaching with her medical knowledge to help individuals improve their health and wellbeing. She is a passionate advocate for a whole-person approach to health for managing day-to-day stress and life's inevitable challenges through to managing ill health. Feeling dissatisfied with the language used in more traditional ‘Pain Management’ and treatment approaches she was successful in obtaining funding to design and run her own ‘Wellbeing for People with Pain’ programme. She has found that even subtle changes in the language used in communications with clients can have dramatic outcomes even in those with the most complex issues.


CLARE GERADA: The impact of personal, professional and institutional stigma on doctors in need of treatment

Abstract: Clare will be talking about doctors and mental illness and in particular why it is that so many are becoming unwell. All over the world doctors are increasingly becoming mentally ill and have suicide rates higher than an age matched group. It is hard to explain why given that for most doctors they have a highly paid, high esteem and worthwhile job. She will draw on her experience running the practitioner health service (a service for doctors with mental illness) as well as using theories derived from the group analytic literature to make sense of this phenomenon and in so doing suggest ways of reducing the levels of distress.

Biography: Dr Clare Gerada had just passed her 26th year mile stone working in the same GP practice in South London. She began working there having first trained in psychiatry and the Maudsley Hospital (where incidentally she met her husband, Simon Wessely). Clare has worked at the interface between mental health and primary care ever since with a special interest in the care of substance misusers, the homeless and currently mentally ill doctors. for the last decade she has led the largest physician health service in Europe and too date the service has had over 5000 doctors and dentists with mental illness present to it. Clare led the Royal College of General Practitioners between 2011-2013, only the second women in its history to at its head. Clare trained in group analysis, obtaining the diploma of Group Analysis in 2014. She uses her experience from this field to help understand why doctors are so unhappy Clare is proud that other than when on annual leave she is still a front line GP and even does her fair share of out of hours work.


IAN WILLIAMS: Bad Doctors and Graphic Medicine

Abstract: Ian wrote and drew a graphic novel called The Bad Doctor, a darkly humorous work of fiction which contains autobiographical elements. The book is about medicine, cycling, obsessive compulsive disorder and heavy metal. It is also about burnout. The protagonist, Dr Iwan James, is a GP who finds it hard to separate his patients' suffering from his own, for it is he who has had OCD since adolescence. The landscape through which he cycles seems filled with pain. At the time of writing the book Ian had given up general practice after 12 years as a partner in North Wales. He didn't think he would go back to it, but the two years working on the book proved to be a time of re-evaluation and catharsis and he has subsequently returned to the speciality. In this talk Ian will relate how comics, and the discipline of Graphic Medicine, changed his life and allowed him to talk about a condition he had hitherto kept secret. 

Biography Ian Williams is a comics artist, writer and GP, based in Brighton. His graphic novel, The Bad Doctor, was published in the UK by Myriad Editions, in North America by Penn State University Press and in France by Marabout. It was shortlisted for the Medicine Unboxed Creative Prize 2015, highly commended in the BMA Book Awards 2015, and was included as one of the 40 works in The Great British Graphic Novel exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in London. He is currently working on his second graphic novel, The Lady Doctor, under a contract from the same publishers. Dr Williams studied Fine Art after medical school and then became involved in the Medical Humanities movement. He named and created the area of study called Graphic Medicine, founding the Graphic Medicine website in 2007, which he currently edits with MK Czerwiec. He is co-author of The Graphic Medicine Manifesto, also from Penn State University Press, which was nominated for an Eisner Award. He has been the recipient of several grants and has contributed to numerous medical, humanities, and comics publications. Between May 2015 and January 2017 he drew a weekly comic strip, Sick Notes, for The Guardian newspaper.


SANGRAM PATIL: Mindfulness for Burnout

Abstract: Sangram will deliver a presentation on the basics and current evidence for mindfulness and will conduct a practical session for the group. He will also discuss the mechanism of it’s role in stress reduction as described in ancient texts with current clinical and practical relevance.



Biography:Dr.Platt graduated from the medical school of the University of Western Australia in 1977. After training in pain medicine and anaesthesia in Perth, Australia, and London he became Senior Lecturer in Anaesthesia at Imperial College and St. Mary’s Hospital in 1991, and is now Consultant and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Pain Medicine and Anaesthesia at St. Mary’s Hospital and Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, and is also Honorary Consultant in Palliative care for Kensington and Chelsea Primary Care Trust. While working in this position, he studied for and was awarded an MA in Bioethics from Surrey University in 2005, with a special interest in end of life issues, particularly in pain medicine. His special interests are nerve pain and functional disability.


SARA BOOTH: A Practical Session of Creative Writing, so we ourselves can learn ways of using language in a skilful way

Biography: Sara is an Honorary Consultant, Associate Lecturer, University of Cambridge. The Nuffield Hospital and Nuffield Gym Cambridge. She was appointed to be the first Consultant in palliative medicine at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust to found and build a palliative care service for the hospital. She also had a longstanding interest in the breathlessness that accompanies chronic illness and set up a Breathlessness Service (BIS). Sara trained in palliative care at St Christopher’s Hospice (London) where she carried out an RCT of oxygen versus air for breathlessness in patients with Cancer. She was then appointed to Sir Michael Sobell House (Oxford) where she was the first senior registrar and then the first clinician to work in the hospital palliative care support team. She then held an NHS R&D Training Fellowship during which she validated the shuttle walking test in people with cancer. She had previously worked in anaesthetics (to fellowship level) paediatrics and psychiatry.