The value of cinema in medical education and patients

For medical students, cinema and literature can contribute to the discovery of a number of transversal aspects of their training with little presence in course curricula; in the same way, in the citizenry, film and medicine can contribute to the formation of critical awareness of the meaning and value of health.

An article published last July by the Journal of Medicine and Cinema presents the conceptual foundations of the Cinema, Literature and Medicine elective that has been taught since 2011 in the second year of medicine at the University of Oviedo, Asturias, Spain.

The text is included in the context of narrative medicine, which through literature strives for a deeper understanding of the disease, the medical profession or the experiences of patients.

The authors, doctors working in different institutions in the region, take it for granted that two types of medicine have been conceived:

“to change tech in which the patient has little input, i
«b) date stories, based on dialogue, empathy and narrative understanding of each patient, which requires listening. The latter is a counterpoint to the current biomedically based techno-scientific medicine in which the patient is depersonalized and even labeled with the name of his pathology.»

The reaction to the first conception causes various manifestations of protest under the motto “I am not my disease”, “which means that the patient does not bring his liver or kidney, or any other abnormally functional structure, to the consultation, but everything goes with him, with his worries and hopes, which forces us to take into account not only the biological aspects, but also the emotional and relational ones that make up the patient’s vital project”, the article states.

Contribution of cinematography to medicine

There are many publications that analyze the role of films and television series. It can be concluded from them a positive effect that should be encouraged “because we live in an eminently visual culture (image civilization) and the historical knowledge of the majority of the population is specified or consolidated through audiovisual media”, the authors explain. .

Audiovisual language is a system of presenting reality that surrounds people and gives meaning to objects and practices of everyday life, regulates social practices, modulates the behavior of the population and provides a sense of personal and other’s identity.

The article summarizes the contribution of cinematography to the teaching of medicine in the following concepts:

a) promotion of self-learning and critical and reflective attitude of students;
b) acquisition of skills and abilities of teaching plans;
c) research into the cultural and social dimensions of illness and the experience of illness;
d) appropriation of symbols and meanings provided by film language;
e) inclusion of learned concepts in our life experiences;
f) bringing the learned closer to the practical context, encouraging students to attribute meaning i
g) reconstruction of health events from a human point of view.

In addition to these facts, the authors point out that the film is a source of information that expresses the moment of creation, a reflection of the technical, political and social reality of that historical moment.

Literary contributions

Literature and medicine are closely connected not only with life, but also with death, which is a significant part of literary production.

The authors value this supplement as an effective resource for learning aspects ignored in colleges: the patient in his troubles, worries, life expectations, fears, anxieties, and fears.

In this sense, they refer to the fact that a third of medical schools in the United States of America include courses in literature as part of their undergraduate studies, pointing out that it is common to find them in Spanish schools.

The current increase in literature for the training of medical students and other health science degrees is partly due to the rise of narrative medicine and the weight of techno-scientific medicine that characterizes the biomedical model, forgetting the patient as a person. The article points out that literature and art can help not only to better understand patients, but also to restore the comprehensive care that patients and their families require.

Metaphors and eponyms, contributions to medicine

Bordallo Landa, González Rodríguez and Agustín Hidalgo, the authors of the article, express their views with medical descriptions derived from explanatory metaphors:
buffalo neck (characteristic of Cushing’s disease), rice water diarrhea (typical of cholera), smell of wet straw (phenylketonuria), image of butterfly wings of some pneumonias or jellyfish head alluding to the curvature of the abdominal vessels typical of portal hypertension.

and continue; «the use of metaphors is more extensive so, for example, the term cancer is used as a metaphor for the supposed moral punishments contained in expressions such as climate change is an ecological cancer, crime is a social cancer, school failure is an educational cancer or corruption is a political cancer».

As for eponyms, the article presents some famous literary characters:
Achilles tendon, Morphine (alluding to the god Morpheus), Adam’s apple, Mount of Venus, Head of Medusa, Hypnosis (alluding to Hypnos, the god of sleep) or Atropine (referring to Atropos, one of the three fates).

Inspirational diseases

At the end of their thoughts, the authors point out that reading can be useful at any time of the evolutionary process of the disease, with the exception of perhaps the most acute phase if it is accompanied by physical or emotional suffering that makes it difficult to concentrate. heavy.

Accompanying books is possible because literature can inform, guide and tell stories related to the origin, development and outcome of many currently prevalent diseases. In each of the stages of the disease, the individual will resort to reading with different goals: to gain knowledge, learn about other people’s experiences, to console themselves or simply to entertain the passing time. But perhaps the time when reading provided (and provides) more companionship to patients with slow progression of chronic illness and recovery; perhaps in these circumstances the spirit is more willing to share the stories the books tell.
The images of patients reading in anti-tuberculosis sanatoriums or in nursing homes that some literary classics have so recreated speak for themselves.

As examples of the relationship between illness and literary creativity, Asturian authors cite the cases of Cortazar or Bram Stoker, who went through long convalescences during their childhood, in which their love for reading was born. In this influence, when they refer to Tolkien, they remember that while the writer was recovering from his trench feverbegins to write the first lines of the saga of Lord of the Rings.

It seems clear, in light of the previous comments, that cinematography and literature can contribute to exposing medical students to aspects of their training with little presence in undergraduate subject programmes.

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