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Free public lectures on medical science at Gresham College

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Gresham College are hosting a number of free lectures on the subject of medical science starting in October. The lectures will be taking place at the Museum of London (EC2Y 5HN) or Barnard’s Inn Hall (EC1N 2HH).

The rhythm of life: the beat and dance of the heart
Wednesday 12 October 2016, 6pm – 7pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
The heart beats continuously to sustain life. Its basic rhythm is well known, and has been used as a soundtrack to evoke romance, tension and horror.  In this lecture, Professor Elliott will describe how the rhythm is generated. With the help of a percussionist (Nick Buxton of La Shark) and a dancer, he will demonstrate the evocation of those emotions, and what happens when the rhythm of the heart goes awry.

Van Eyck’s the virgin with the canon: visual disability and societal attitudes as depicted in the Northern Renaissance
Tuesday 25 October 2016, 1pm – 2pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
Examples of disease as shown in artworks will be examined, from the medical and surgical point of view as well as the historical and artistic ones, particularly visual loss as portrayed by artists from pre-historic times. The special mystery in the story contained within Van Eyck’s The Virgin with The Canon (1436) will then be discussed, providing a fascinating religious, legal, medical and sociological explanation for the Canon’s blindness and contemporary attitudes towards it.

The treatment of cancer
Wednesday 26 October 2016, 6pm – 7pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
The treatment for people with many cancers has been transformed in the last two decades, and further major improvements are expected to occur over the next twenty years. Improved surgery and radiotherapy have been joined by less toxic chemotherapy targeting specific genetic abnormalities in cancer cells. Better genetic understanding of cancer and harnessing the immune system to fight disease are among the approaches revolutionising a group of diseases once seen as incurable.

The prevention of cancer
Wednesday 16 November 2016, 6pm – 7pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
There is wide variation in how easy cancers are to prevent but greater understanding of modifiable risk factors will lead to many cancers becoming substantially less common in the future. Some, such as cervical or lung cancers are already completely or largely preventable. For a few such as prostate cancer there are no current prevention strategies. For most cancers, however, the risk can be substantially reduced. Finding the right balance between the role of the state and of individuals in preventing cancer is often difficult.

Seeing through the lies: innovation and the need for transparency
Wednesday 23 November 2016, 6pm – 7pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
Doctors’ careers can be sometimes built on publication rates and citation indices. Medical journals preferentially publish positive results, which also benefits industry. It is not surprising that scientific fraud occurs. When discovered, reputations are broken and livelihoods lost. The collateral damage to innocent patients and other researchers can be catastrophic. This lecture reviews some classic and some new examples of fraud and discusses what can be done to prevent it.

Sudden death in the young: a terrible waste
Wednesday 18 January 2017, 6pm – 7pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
Sudden death in the young is more common than you think, and is, as my own family knows only too well, an appalling injustice in terms of lost life and potential. This lecture considers the causes of sudden death, its impact on families, the difficulties of carrying out research, and some of the legal and social obstacles to discovering more.

The history of local anaesthesia
Monday 6 February 2017, 1pm – 2pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
Most equate ‘anaesthesia’ with general anaesthesia. This is likely due to the introduction of general anaesthesia (1847) pre-dating that of local anaesthesia (1884). The drugs used for these first demonstrations, ether and cocaine, had been in existence for centuries before pioneers made the mental leap between the knowledge that they could cause – respectively – sedation and numbness, and the potential for these effects to be used for the benefit of humanity. Dr Harrop-Griffiths will put a humorous spin on a fascinating story.

Affairs of the heart: an exploration of the symbolism of the heart in art
Tuesday 14 February 2017, 6pm – 7pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
A celebration of the heart for St Valentine’s Day. How is it that a simple pump has become a symbol of the highest human emotions of love, truth, conscience and moral courage? How have artists represented this over the centuries?  And how effective have those representations been? This lecture will be an interdisciplinary presentation by Professor Martin Elliott and Dr Valerie Shrimplin (art historian and registrar of Gresham College).

I won’t have blood! A battle between belief and duty?
Wednesday 15 March 2017, 6pm – 7pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
Most open-heart surgery in children requires the use of donor blood. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, on the basis of biblical texts, that blood should not be ingested or transfused. There is thus a tension between clinical teams and devout families. This lecture explores that tension, and considers how we might perform open-heart surgery without blood.

Xtreme Everest: taking medicine from mountainside to bedside
Tuesday 21 March 2017, 6pm – 7pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
In 2007, a team of doctors and scientists ascended to the roof of the world to understand more about how we adapt to high altitude - and why some of us adapt better than others. The Caudwell Xtreme Everest expedition was central to a fifteen year programme of research aiming to understand how humans adapt to low oxygen levels when critically ill. The researchers believe that changes in human physiology that allow some humans to climb the highest mountains on earth, may also be of benefit when oxygen levels in the body are low because of illness. This story combines high science with exceptional human endeavour.

The eradication of infectious diseases
Wednesday 26 April 2017, 6pm – 7pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
Eradicating an infectious disease for all time is one of the greatest gifts a generation can give to all subsequent ones. To date only one human disease, smallpox, has been eradicated, with two more (polio and Guinea worm) being tantalisingly close. Several other major diseases are talked about as eradication targets. Eradicating diseases is however very difficult for scientific but also political reasons. Many eradication attempts have been tried and failed. This lecture will examine the opportunities and difficulties of eradication.

Nice work if you can get it: life as a children’s heart surgeon
Wednesday 24 May 2017, 6pm – 7pm, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN
My job has been one of duty and privilege, working worldwide with wonderful colleagues. Few people are lucky enough to save lives or change them for the better. Few also experience the horror of losing lives or worsening them. In this lecture I want to share some of the astonishing experiences – funny, scary, sad – that have made my job so satisfying.

Gene therapy – the future has arrived!
Thursday 25 May 2017, 6pm – 7pm, Barnard’s Inn Hall, EC1N 2HH
Using DNA and gene-based therapy to treat human diseases may sound like science-fiction, but there are already several gene therapies in use today, for diseases such as muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis. This lecture will describe what gene therapy is all about, the recent advancements in the field and what the future holds for gene therapies.

All lectures will last for one hour. The lectures are free and open to all on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
All lectures will be recorded and released on the Gresham College website after they have taken place. Here they join the free online archive of over 2,000 lectures stretching back over 30 years.
Visit www.gresham.ac.uk to find out more.

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