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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Health and humanities come together

    Courtesy of the College of Humanities A 3-day conference will be held featuring UA scholars from different disciplines regarding humanities, radiology, and neuroscience to explore attention in neural networks.

    The Humanities, Medicine, & Wellness Convention will unite science and the humanities under the overarching theme of wellness, including physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The three-day conference, which begins today, will offer panels with experts from both fields.

    According to Karen Seat, the director of the UA’s religious studies program and one of the event coordinators, it has become increasingly common to merge the humanities and medicine as interest in the intersection of these areas has grown. To see if such an event was possible at UA, Medical Humanities Liasion Hester Oberman sent out an email to faculty to see if anyone was interested in participating and was met with an outpouring of interest from multiple disciplines.

    Seat said she believes that the combination of these two fields is gaining momentum because it creates a human context for wellness.
    “[It] captures the imagination in a way that cold facts and figures don’t,” she said.

    Furthermore, she said, the popular perception that the humanities and medicine represent entirely different approaches to the world also means that they complement each other.

    Though the convention focuses on specific themes, Seat said that whether student, staff or community member, the variety of events ensures that there is something for everyone.

    “[Organizers brought] in as many perspectives as they could,” she said.

    Thomas Willard, a UA professor of English, will offer a classical historical perspective with his discussion “Medical Uses of Imagery: Imagination and Health in Paracelsus” that will take place during the presentation “Historical Approaches to Health and Wellness.”

    According to Willard, Swiss German Renaissance physician Paracelsus was a visionary for his time, both literally and figuratively. He rejected the accepted notions of medicine that were constrained to what was physically observable and used his imagination to guess at the inner workings of the human body and how that might affect illness and health.

    Willard said that he hopes his investigation into the past will help show how modern thought on medicine and humanities has evolved.
    “[Listeners will] learn about how current tactics have come along,” Willard said.

    For example, Willard believes medical imaging encompasses exactly what Paracelsus attempted to do with his patients. According to Willard, Paracelsus imagined what ailments would look like underneath the visible skin and tried methods of healing according to that image, much like medical practitioners today use medical images to treat problems effectively.

    Other notable events Seat recommended include Dr. Esther Sternberg’s keynote address about the relationship between wellness and environment and the convention’s final event, a roundtable discussion. In particular, she said, the panel will provide a holistic view on the present state of humanities and medicine affairs and where it could be heading.

    One speaker at the roundtable, Fenton Johnson, an interdisciplinary professor, said he believes that this future is of particular importance to the current health care process. Johnson thinks that modern medical practice too closely resembles a business and, as a result, is in need of reform.

    Johnson said he believes that the humanization of the field — through the merging of medicine and humanities — will improve the quality of treatment.

    “[Certain studies] prove the existence of the healing capacity in personal human contact,” he said.
    Other goals, according to Seat, include getting faculty and researchers talking together across the disciplines so people get excited about these topics.

    “[There are] new, innovative ideas for research and program building, showing the community the wide range of interesting work we’re doing here at the university,” Seat said.

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