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Welcome to the Medical Humanities Network

Welcome to the Glasgow University Medical Humanities Network, supported by the Wellcome Trust. The medical humanities complement, contextualise and critique purely biomedical, technological or other reductive accounts of what it means to experience illness, encounter disease or transact a therapeutic relationship. In addressing how we comprehend health, sickness, disease and “the embodied life”, such concerns are examined from a range of professional and patient perspectives. This website is intended to act as a forum to connect individuals working across a range of disciplines and practices at the University of Glasgow, who are interested in the intersections of medicine, culture, and the arts and humanities. Megan Coyer & Hannah Tweed

Spotlight on...

Project: Coming Home: the gendered experienced of American medical personnel who served in the Vietnam War

The specific context of the Vietnam War is worth studying from a medical humanities perspective as the types of injuries and illnesses prevalent in the combat-zone were totally alien, even to seasoned medical professionals. Medical staff treated 303,704 Americans who were wounded as a result of enemy action. Their extraordinary contributions to the medical evacuation system in Vietnam meant that 82 percent of those wounded in action survived. Soldiers survived multiple horrific injuries, which would have proven fatal in all previous American conflicts.

However, the statistical data can disguise the troubling moral and ethical dilemmas doctors and nurses faced daily as a result. Medical personnel, usually nurses, were responsible for ‘triage,’ but in combat medicine the mission was to preserve the fighting force, and not individual lives. They were also responsible for saving the lives of patients who had been so horribly mutilated that doctors and nurses had to confront the harsh reality that some of these patients might have preferred death. I will be analysing the mental and emotional toll this work took on medical staff, and how they have engaged and identified with narratives of ‘trauma’ or ‘resilience’ when reflecting upon their post-war lives. I also want to identify whether there is a discernible link between the nature of medical work in Vietnam, and the manifestation of PTSD.