The UTMB Health Institute for the Medical Humanities is pleased to welcome Rolf Ahlzen, MD, PhD as a Visiting Scholar. Dr. Ahlzen will be in residence from February 2011 through March 2011.
Dr. Ahlzen describes himself and his work as follows:
"My project may be seen as the outflow of a long standing interest in the borderlands between medicine and the humanities. I have long been a member of two communities and I have had one foot solidly anchored in each of them. The one is the academic community of researchers and teachers, in areas more or less clearly related to medicine. The other is the field of medical and health care practitioners, who are more or less (usually the latter) interested in theories and abstractions concerning the philosophical and ethical foundations of their practice. And, somewhat like C.P. Snow's vision of “the two cultures” – they do not really seem to meet each other."
"My interests are wide ranging and my recent PhD work concerns the potential of literature to contribute to clinical skills. This is the line I would like to pursue during a stay in Galveston. I am intrigued and indeed worried, by the gap that far too often seems to exist between medical practitioners and scholars of medical humanities. Indeed, there are many encouraging exceptions. But why, may we ask, do clinicians so relatively seldom approach and learn from the undoubtedly often very practically relevant research done in medical humanities? And even more so: Why do those engaged in medical humanities so relatively seldom, if ever, try the idea that medicine, clinical medicine in particular, has something to contribute to their understanding of their fields of the humanities? That we are indeed dealing with a reciprocal relationship, where both parties could and should approach each other with humility and openness, prepared to learn from each other?"
"Some twenty years ago, Leon Kass asked, in the Hastings Centre Review, worrying questions about the booming medical ethics business and its probably relatively small impact on actual clinical conduct. Should we ask the same question to what was, in a sense, a reply to Kass' questions: the medical humanities movement? How do we make a difference? The recent debate in Academic Medicine (2010) illuminates many of the core questions that I would like to raise and pursue. These questions of course concern medical education on all levels, but also the role of humanities in general in an era of consumerism and hard economic winds blowing in most countries' health care systems. "
"We do need medical humanities. Urgently, more than ever. But we must - without falling into the trap of only accepting one basic kind of proof in this field, the one copied on medical evidence – find ways of reaching right into practice and show that MH makes a difference. This must mean that MH scholars are prepared to learn from practitioners and to be acquainted with their ways of thinking and acting. Medical humanities must be founded on a richer and more truthful understanding of what practical knowledge is. This is what I plan to discuss, learn and write about during a stay in Galveston."