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Friday, 13 March 2015

From Leonardo to Ebola in international entries shortlisted and commended for 2015 Hippocrates Young Poet Award

Four poets have been shortlisted for the £500 2015 Hippocrates Young Poet Prize: Daniella Cugini from
Warwick in England and US poets Alex Greenberg from New York City, Alexandra Spensley from Avon Lake, Ohio and Parisa Thepmankorn from Rockaway, New Jersey. A further 5 poets from the UK, the USA and Canada were commended. Themes of the shortlisted and commended entries ranged from a child with Ebola to Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical studies.

This International Hippocrates Prize for Young Poets is for an unpublished poem in English on a medical theme by poets aged 14 to 18 years. The 2014 Prize attracted entries from 
Australia, Canada, Nepal, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the UK, Ukraine and the USA. The £500 (~US $750) is one of the most valuable poetry awards in the world for young poets.

This year’s poems were judged by poet and former BBC Poetry Please presenter Simon Rae.

See more about the 2015 Hippocrates Young Poet Award for Poetry and Medicine.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Coull Quartet to perform in support of the children’s cancer charity: CLIC Sargent

The internationally renowned Coull Quartet are to perform on Tuesday 15th September, 2015 in support of the children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent at the second in a series of annual charity musical evenings organised by the Worsted Weavers Guild. The first Worsted Weavers’ charity musical evening was held in May 2014 in Ashow.

Packington Hall:  © Copyright David Stowell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Packington Hall
The musical performance on 15th September 2015 will take place by generous permission of the Earl of Aylesford in the Pompeiian Hall at the Packington Estate in Warwickshire (around 20 minutes by road north of Kenilworth).

Register interest in attending the concert.
See more on the programme, CLIC Sargent and the Coull Quartet.

Photo of Packington Hall © Copyright David Stowell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Monday, 2 March 2015

As merry as the day is long? Shakespeare on seasonal mood ...

Easy to over-interpret, however when Beatrice says in Much Ado about
Winter - North of Scotland
she is " ... As merry as the day is long", interesting to consider: was this a throw-away line, a mask for her true mood, or the mirror of "... As sad as the day is short"?  We also have
young prince Mamillius saying "... a sad tale's best for winter." [Winter's Tale. II.i.25]

Hippocratic writings [On Airs, Waters, and Places: ~400 BCE] recognize the potential for seasonal variation to influence patterns of disease in general. And not a new idea that people are lower in spirits in winter months: the Roman writer Jordanes refers to winter depression in his history of the Goths [Getica: 551 AD]. Describing depression as 'the blues' dates from 1741 and 'winter blues' [la dépression hivernale] describes what many people may experience. 

However SAD syndrome (Seasonal Affective Disorder) was only formally reported as such and named in 1984 by Rosenthal and colleages at the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA. Rosenthal was initially motivated by wishing to discover the cause of his own experience of depression during the dark northern US winter. His key contribution was to suggest that reduced exposure to light is a major factor causing SAD and that exposure to more light during the day may reverse features of SAD. 
Of note, Much Ado (as Love's Labour's Won) is currently paired by the RSC in Stratford with the bleaker Love's Labour's Lost with its unfulfilled ending, and the poem "Winter", "When icicles hang by the wall". The only "merry note" appears to be from an owl. Chilled Dick the shepherd is "blowing his nail", greasy Joan, has "... nose, red and raw...", and the "Parson (is) drowned out by coughing flock".

Shakespeare often used winter as a metaphor for hard times and troubled characters, from the direct contrast from the opening of King Richard III
"Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer ..."

to Sonnet 5
"For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter and confounds him there;
Sap cheque'd with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o'ersnow'd and bareness every where

There is inevitable speculation about the extent to which Shakespeare was revealing on stage aspects of his own depression, or reflecting human experience, and the influence of uncertainties of life at his time.

For the present day, there are now also biochemical hypotheses for the cause of SAD - infections are common in winter and the inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) released by the body's defence cells to fight infection may have the unwanted effect of depressing mood, through toxic actions on brain cells. This may both provide new causes for depression as well as opportunities for treatment, through blocking these harmful chemicals.

Folk wisdom and health

Shakespeare and the history of heartbreak  The Lancet
Sadness and the four humours in Shakespeare

New UK initiative from 2nd March on driving and legal or illegal drugs

2nd March 2015: 
It was previously an offence to drive whilst impaired through drink or drugs.

New regulations in England and Wales, in place from 2nd March 2015, aim to reduce risk of RTAs caused by drivers who are taking illegal drugs while driving, or legal drugs which impair their ability to drive. 

It is now an offence, as it has been for alcohol, to drive with certain drugs above a specified level in the blood. Sixteen legal (see Table below) and illegal drugs are covered by the law, including cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine. 

There is now a zero tolerance approach to 8 drugs most associated with illegal use. There will also be a 'road safety risk based approach' to 8 prescribed drugs most associated with RTA risk. It remains the "driver’s responsibility to decide whether they consider their driving is, or they believe might be, impaired on any given occasion." (page 7)

Recreational drugs are well-established as causes of road traffic accidents (RTAs). DrinkAware lists several important reasons why alcohol leads to accidents. Alcohol
  • affects judgement and reasoning
  • slows down reactions
  • upsets sense of balance and coordination
  • impairs vision and hearing
  • makes users lose concentration and feel drowsy.
DrinkAware note legal limits for alcohol in the breath as 35 microgram/100 
mL for England and Wales (80 milligram/100 ml in blood) and lower at 22 microgram/100 mL in breath for Scotland (50 milligram/100 ml in blood).

Cannabis use also increases driving risk in several ways and has, for example, been implicated in 1 in 4 RTAs in France.  Furthermore alcohol and cannabis are often used together and in combination can increase risk of a road traffic accident.

For recreational drugs, safety when driving may be impaired both during use and during drug withdrawal.  

Several commonly prescribed drugs are also expected to reduce alertness and lead to increased risk of road traffic accidents.

People who are having difficulty sleeping may already when awake have reduced ability to concentrate on key tasks, including driving. Poor quality of sleep combined with night sedation may  together reduce alertness further.

Other drugs may have sedative effects as a less obvious action – for example opiate like drugs used to treat pain.

Patients who are concerned about the effects of their prescribed drugs on their safety while driving should consult their pharmacist of medical adviser.

The Government's website notes that:
 'the new law provides a medical defence if you’re taking your medicine in accordance with instructions – either from a healthcare professional or printed in the accompanying leaflet – provided, of course, you’re not impaired.'

It also notes that:
'If you’re driving and you’re on prescription medicine, it may therefore be helpful for you to keep some evidence of this with you in case you’re stopped by the police.'

The following blood level limits for prescription drugs are noted to be:

‘Medicinal’ drugs (risk based approach) Threshold limit in blood
amphetamine 250µg/L
clonazepam 50µg/L
diazepam 550µg/L
flunitrazepam 300µg/L
lorazepam 100µg/L
methadone 500µg/L
morphine 80µg/L
oxazepam 300µg/L
temazepam 1,000µg/L

UK Government's drug driving website

Drug Driving: Guidance for Healthcare Professionals

DrinkAware website