Bobbie Farsides and Sue Eckstein invited me to contribute to a conference for fifth year medical students at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. It was good to be back there fourteen months after the Self-portrait without Breasts project launched at BSMS in October last year.
I was delighted and honoured to present the poems and photographs and to talk about the project to about a hundred and fifty medical students, alongside presentations from Mike Parker, Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Ethox Centre, University of Oxford; Rosamund Scott, Professor of Medical Law and Ethics, King’s College London; Gail Davey, Reader in Global Health, BSMS; Nina Hallowell, Programme Lead, Foundation for Genomics and Population Health, Cambridge; Anneke Lucassen, Professor of Clinical Genetics, University of Southampton.
It was a riveting day. Not only did I learn an enormous amount about the research currently going on in genetic medicine, and about the challenges and complexities of its clinical application, but I also experienced first hand the intelligence, compassion, curiosity and utter commitment of the people who will be tomorrow’s doctors. They are as impressive as their educators.
I came away with a strong sense that the genetic medicine of the future will be absolutely about teamwork between patients and their families, extended families, genetics clinicians, medical practitioners and researchers – we’re all in it together, that’s for sure. And it will be about sharing knowledge, views and feelings, thinking our way through the many ethical issues towards what is the best course of action in each case.
As someone who has had to think hard about inherited disease, I am delighted to be able to play a role in discussions about choices and their implications, feelings and their expression, bodies and their mutability. As a writer, I am thrilled that my work leads me to such interesting places.