Art and Science of EM: Back to Leonardo and our patients

Ambitious. Expansive. Humanistic. The ACEM ASM 2012 is just drawing to a close in Hobart as I type these words and I’ve got to tell you: This has been grand in concept and superb in execution.

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The Art and Science of Emergency Medicine might be a title that disconcerts as much as it attracts most emergency physicians but this conference was timely and therapeutic for a specialty staggering under the weight of it’s own and societal expectation.

the art of emergency medicine sits between science and our patients

Hobart is, of course, a beautiful city with a wonderful museum – MONA – to captivate and stimulate the imagination, so the organisers (Geoff Couser – take a bow) started well in front of the game.

Having Jane Clark, a Curatorial Consultant from MONA, along to recount the close history and recent divergence of art and science (how is that for a phenomenal oversimplification) was wonderfully entertaining.

The real tour-de-force was the personal and compassionate themes emerging in session after session that gave the conference a power and timbre of extraordinary richness.

Sarah Wright recounted her own story and helped us – yes, even artistic philistines like me – through the artistic program, complementing and enhancing the scientific aspects of the event.

What is the art of emergency medicine? I think Kendall Ho helped me understand when he put the art of emergency medicine between science and our patients. We have developed the science of treating diseases, and have evolved specialities, guidelines, campaigns targeting diseases. But the art is modulating the science to help our patients, to include them and their families in decision making by giving them all of the facts, and to recognise that sometimes appropriate care is to stop giving treatments that target the individual disease so as to help the whole patient.

Conversation after conversation explored the humanistic and the holistic, in context with the scientific and the systematic. In our world, where the national emergency access target is the on-ramp to the freeway to disease focussed rather than patient centred care, this discourse is one worth having.


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