Upcoming Conference Inspires Board Member Adrianne Noe
Historians credit Hippocrates with asserting, “War is the only proper school for surgeons.” Certainly the wounds of war are instructive. And just as certainly they are immutable. Our ability to learn from them resides not only in our understanding of their clinical expression; it resides in our comprehension of their lasting effect upon individuals and cultures. The arts and humanities can advance this knowledge and allow us to distinguish the wound from the wounded, to share some of the experience of trauma and to understand its strong grasp.
The upcoming conference, After Shock: Humanities Perspectives on Trauma on November 12 and 13 will provide a guide to humanities resources for healthcare providers and anyone interested—and extend the Maryland Humanities Council’s mission of opening ears, eyes and minds, for what is suppressed in trauma is sometimes brilliantly reborn in literature, where the incommunicable gives way to the expression of profound emotion and purpose.
For more than a decade, the Literature & Medicine initiative has led explorations of writing with healthcare professionals. This program began with the remarkable work of the Maine Humanities Council and has now expanded into 26 states, including the Maryland Humanities Council. Recently, through a National Endowment of the Humanities Grant, the initiative has increased its emphasis on healthcare providers in Veterans Affairs facilities and on those who work with physical and psychological trauma victims, whether active duty, veterans or civilians.
I have recently had the privilege of meeting many individuals who turn to art to grapple with their challenges as orthopedic patients and as orthopedic healthcare professionals. Their experiences with intervention or with long and complex healing processes are conveyed in sculpture, paintings, drawings, photographs and mixed media. Some are fragmentary; others are monolithic. And they are all stunning. All reveal an urgency that transcends the “official patient record” and disclose, somehow, the universal in the unique.
Adrianne Noe is a member of the Maryland Humanities Council’s Board. She has written extensively on the history of extremity injury in war.
See the show Wounded in Action, an art exhibition of orthopedic advancements being shown now at the Museum of Health and Medicine. Read http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum/news/orthopaedic_advancement.html for more information.