Humanities and health

Finding meaning in medicine


“Health is wealth”, as the old adage goes and indeed our health dictates many aspects of our day-to-day life. We rely on our health for all aspects of our life – we need it to work, play and to function at any level. It is therefore unsurprising that many of us find it difficult to confront problems with our health – something as insignificant as a “pulling a muscle” can have a profound effect on us and this is before we even discuss issues surrounding health and mortality.

The creative arts provide the perfect outlet to reflect on these difficult situations in a compassionate, sympathetic manner while at the same time allowing for real insights into difficult situations. With this in mind Trinity Biological Association (Biosoc) began its “Medicine through the Arts” series two years ago – an annual series where Biosoc organises dramatic plays which allow for difficult medical situations to be explored at a deep, holistic level.

The plays Biosoc have chosen include popular and niche plays, but all provide insight into different aspects of medicine, our health and our culture. These have included “Closer to Me,” a play on a patients experience on eating disorders, and James Joyce’s’ “The Dead” which was introduced with a reflective piece by Senator David Norris. These plays bring our health and the medical profession back to what it should be about: not cold hard facts and diagnoses, but the patient. In the words of William Osler “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the Diagnosis.”

This year Biosoc has upped the ante and decided to produce its own play. Biosoc members Owen Killian and Marliza O’Dwyer are producing a production of the Pulitzer prize winning play “W;t” by Margaret Edison. The show centres on Dr. Vivian Bearing, (Claire O’Donovan) a university professor of English, on stage in a hospital gown clearly suffering from the debilitating effects of cancer and multiple chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The audience, through flashbacks, see her agree to a new experimental treatment and watch how she is affected. The play balances a fine line between humour, wit and timing and the difficult situation Vivian is faced with.

While the story is clearly a harrowing and deeply emotional one, Biosoc have taken the initiative to make the play even more immersive by having students in college play critical roles – Oisín O’Brien, a medical student, plays Dr. Jason Posner, a clinical resident while Catriona Moloney, a drama student, plays Susie, Vivian’s nurse. The play is directed by Owen Killian, a Trinity medical student, who has put together a tight-knit cast and interesting take on this well-established play. The cast is rounded out with other exceptional actors who also promise to bring the story to life – Gerry Herbert plays Dr. Kelekian and Charity Carter plays Vivian’s doctoral supervisor.

“W;t”, produced by Biosoc takes place this Friday at the Lir Academy at 7:30 pm. Tickets are priced at €8 for students (students are also asked to give a discretionary donation of €2 to the St. James’ Foundation), while tickets for non-students will be sold at €20. Tickets can be purchased directly from Biosoc ([email protected]) and a limited number of tickets may be available on the night subject to availability.