2018’s Williams Project programme began with a visit from Professor Edgar Jones (Professor of the History of Medicine and Psychiatry at King’s College London) to talk to the students about “The Psychology of War: from shell shock to post-traumatic stress disorder.” Professor Jones currently works at the Institute of Psychiatry Psychology & Neuroscience and is based in the Maudsley Hospital, which initially opened as a military hospital and then eventually as a psychiatric hospital. His talk covered mental health from both the past and today; firstly, soldiers during the First World War, with many cases reported after battles such as the Somme and the 3rd Ypres. Pictures were shown to the WP cohort of the shell-shocked soldiers of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers, showing how war often had a deeper psychological impact after seeing physical trauma. He explained how after analysing data, he and his team found how psychological injury was closely linked to physical injury and that it spiked much higher after large amounts of fatalities/injuries (often higher than the number of deaths). Professor Jones then went on to discuss how many of those impacted by the Blitz bombings suffered from PTSD; despite shell shock having similar symptoms, PTSD is distinguished by the sufferer experiencing a deeply traumatising experience. He then went on to compare these with more modern-day events, such as terrorist attacks like the 7/7 bombings, and more recently the Manchester arena attack. Professor Jones explained how the media often misuse the term ‘panic’ when describing rational behaviour in the face of real threats, and in this way distort the responses of the public. ‘Panic’ is defined as irrational behaviour, rather than just being scared and running for safety.
After a detailed Q&A with some excellent questions, the talk came to a close and several students joined the professor at dinner for continued discussion about both the talk as well as life at university. This was definitely a profound and thought-provoking talk for all, and it really showed what an impact mental health can have in times of war and distress. Thank you Professor Jones for a great start to WP 2018!
Nearly a hundred Chigwell pupils, staff and parents attended the annual presentation of the winning essays in the Howard and Mitchell Essay competition. This competition is open to Year 12 students, whose essays, initiated, researched and written independently, enter either the Howard (arts and humanities) or Mitchell (maths and sciences) contests.
This year’s winners were (Mitchell) Zuzanna Borawska, on “From Gutenberg to printing organs – the amazing story of 3D printing”, and (Howard) Olivia Mendel-Portnoy, on “To what extent was the improvement of treatment of patients in Bethlem Royal Hospital from 1815-90, due to the York Retreat?” Both talks were expertly prepared and confidently delivered, and the subsequent wealth of perceptive questions allowed the presenters to reveal how much they knew beyond what they had said in their talks. The presentations were followed by a dinner, which ended with some wise and witty words of advice from 2006 Howard winner, and now TV screenwriter, Laura Neal.
This year’s table competition was to produce the best map of Central London from memory.
Attenders of the Williams Project were lucky enough to receive a talk from Mr Adam Frosh (OC) about his surgical career, the history of surgery, and applying to medical school. Mr Frosh showed and articulately narrated for us an extremely interesting video of a thyroidectomy, something we had never seen before. He also gave us a lot of insight into the balance between work in a private practice, an NHS hospital and doing academic research of personal interest on the side. His optimistic yet realistic approach to medicine was very encouraging for the large turnout of budding medics.
On the 3rd February, Rick Findler came to the Williams Project to talk about his experiences as a freelance war photographer. Rick started his career photographing minor protests which he felt should be reported, but not finding this to suit him, he turned to more intense situations. These were situations which really mattered. Taking only minimal supplies and an equally eager friend Rick travelled to what may have been his death. It turned out he found his life. Since then, Rick has covered the Libyan revolution and the Syrian Civil War – a feat difficult to achieve due to Assad’s ordering of all foreign journalists as targets – meaning few could go ‘inside’.
His wide range of photos can only be surpassed by the depth of emotion and intensity they portray, from the Royal Wedding to actual life-and-death situations. We have never experienced the suffering Rick has seen, and very few of us ever will, but at least Rick has given us our closest chance yet. Some may say that to photograph the pain is to reinforce it, yet Rick has taught us that the best thing we can do for the victims is to spread their story.
Overall, the talk was gripping and eagerly listened to, and delivered to the best of standards, with Rick showing us the struggles he faced and still faces in his career. The Williams Project will certainly not forget this talk: we would certainly look forward to another.
Rick kindly sent us one of his photographs:
On Wednesday, the 20th of January, Dr Catherine Goodman – an economist from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, visited the Williams Project and gave the first talk of the Lent term, titled “Malaria treatment in Africa – reaching those most in need”.
At first Dr Goodman talked about the wide variety of people from different fields who make up the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who are not only clinicians, but also researchers, anthropologists or, such as Dr Goodman, economists. The School’s main mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide, by developing and testing diagnostic tools for malaria, TB and HIV, pursuing vaccine programmes, examining the cultural issues in Ebola control or investigating the impact of charging user fees for health care. In her work, Dr Goodman focuses on economic aspects of introducing effective interventions for malaria.
We found out that half of the world’s population (3.4 billion people) is at risk of malaria and each year there are about 665,000 malaria deaths, of which 90% occur in Africa. Frighteningly, most of these deaths are children aged under five living in sub-Saharan Africa. Most deaths occur in countries with the highest rates of extreme poverty. We were also quite surprised to find out that in the past there was a number of cases documented in Essex, but to our relief, there is no high risk of this happening again at the moment! There is definitely a strong correlation between malaria and poverty and malaria has serious economic impacts in Africa, slowing economic growth and development. Dr Goodman spoke also about some effective malaria prevention interventions undertaken – insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying and intermittent preventive treatment. Big hopes lie currently in the RTS vaccine, which works effectively in nearly 50% of the cases. We understood why the public sector in many African countries happens to fail in providing antimalarials and we found out about a not very successful idea of a global ACT subsidy and some ideas for the future.
To conclude, the talk was absolutely absorbing and allowed us to have a good insight into the current situation in the global problem of malaria. It has also inspired us to think about the future of malaria treatment and what we could possibly do to improve it and make a change.
On Tuesday, 2nd December 2014, Peter Walling and Jagveen Tyndall (both Old Chigwellians) visited the Williams Project to give the final talk of the term. They both gave highly interesting talks on consciousness, though both talks were very different. Continue reading
Professor Dronsfield, an old friend of the WP, and Dr Ferguson (retired Consultant Anaesthetist) presented a double-act on this widespread drug.
Ann told us about Leo Sternbach, the discoverer/inventor of valium: how, as a Jew, he escaped the Nazis in Central Europe and began a new life in the US working for pharmaceutical company Roche. Alan explained how, while here, he invented a series of tranquillisers, including diazepam, marketed as “Valium”, which is celebrated in the Stones’ Mother’s Little Helper. He stressed how luck and persistence were the key ingredients to Sternbach’s success, rather than “genius”: Einstein was right.
A fascinating and wide-ranging afternoon: it’s really interesting when scientists such as Alan and Ann are able to combine technical chemistry with the history and social context behind important developments.
Chigwell’s philosopher-in-chief and four Remove students (Adam Goriparthi, Max Humphreys, Tom Lockley and Michael Newman) led the Williams Project in a demonstration of the P4C (Philosophy for Children) method. We watched a ‘stimulus’ video about a near-death experience, in small groups generated questions we’d like to discuss, voted on the two we’d like to consider in more depth, and then had an open discussion on these two. Our two chosen questions were: “Can near-death experiences be medically explained?” and “If there were such a thing as life after death, why would there be life after death?”.
A really interesting afternoon. Mr Goodfellow’s P4C club will restart in September (Tuesdays of Week A, 4:15, RS1).
Cordelia Griffith (Howard Essay winner) and Katie Marshall (Mitchell) gave excellent presentations on their essays to a packed library, and dealt with some probing questions with cool skill. Cordelia spoke on “Does Dicey’s conception of the “rule of law” apply in a dictatorship?”, calmly and lucidly demonstrating how the Nazis, in their attempts to ensure that everything they did was technically ‘legal’, nevertheless broke some of Dicey’s rules about how a decent legal system would operate. Katie (“How close is a cure for Parkinson’s Disease?”) explained clearly and with passion some complex science, and focused on how stem cell research might ‘in a generation’ at least bring about clinical trials of the long-awaited cure to this debilitating illness.
The presentations were introduced by representatives of the judging panels, Graham Dixon and David Gower, who stressed the range and quality of this year’s entries, and the importance of letting one’s academic interests develop in ways not overly restricted by thoughts of ‘career’: the career will follow the interests.
Later the annual dinner was held, where we were addressed by Jessica Beagley (OC and former Mitchell winner). She reinforced the point made by the judges, explaining how her career had (already) taken many surprising twists and turns, from scientific research to political lobbying, yet with the common thread of her interest in physiology. It was a perfect way to end the evening.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans placed a huge amount of importance on their sexual being, and had a keen interest in the biological and psychological mechanisms behind lust and carnal desire. Daisy Thurkettle’s talk at the Williams Project on provided a fascinating insight into the various botanical and pharmaceutical methods that the ancients used to synthesise lust and cure impotence (or perhaps less eloquently, ‘get in the mood’). The talk began on the use of essential oils in swathes in royal palaces, such as Cleopatra (who allegedly bathed in milk and rose), but the audience was quickly surprised to learn that love potions and cures for impotence were not only used by the femmes-fatales and powerful goddesses of myth, but by actual Greek people.
These cures included a mass of vegetables and plants which were, perhaps obviously, considered to have genitally-themed aesthetics (leeks, carrots and terebinth tree, anyone?). However, what really gripped the audience were the variously disgusting, poisonous and cannibalistic ingredients; these included dried human marrow, powdered silver beetle, wolfsbane, skink lizard and the famed hippomane – a piece of membrane found on the head of a newborn foal, which was mixed with milk to create the potion Dido made for Aeneas. Needless to say, any combination of some of these ingredients probably caused more death than arousal.
Miss Thurkettle called on a wide range of texts – fragments by various ‘unknown’ ancient authors, texts by Apuleius (including the famous Golden Ass), Hippocrates, and even the Bible. The overarching message of the talk was that the ancients were actually scientifically wise beyond their time in the discovery of some biologically effective aphrodisiacs, but were also developed psychologically (perhaps unintentionally) in their use of the placebo effect.