The Art of Observation

Hello, and welcome to Northwing. This is a special edition: firstly it marks my debut as editor; and secondly it houses our Medicine and Art competition (page 31), the likes of which has never been seen before in Northwing. We hope it is the advent of a regular feature. Thank you to everyone who entered, and special thanks to Yun Xin whose entry provided our cover artwork.

As those of you who read the last edition will know, I am returning from my intercalated year in London. While I am writing this I have a stack of Student BMJs to my right; the unread backlog serving as an adjunct to smooth the path back to clinical medicine, and to my left, a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. What these have in common, other than reminding me that I spent a year studying philosophy (or, pissing about, as everyone keeps saying), is the importance of speaking your mind.

Unfortunately for those closest to me, I realised that I had gained a sudden exuberance for shouting about what I believe in. I became fiercely motivated to explain to the world what I thought was going wrong and how best to fix it. Walden and Student BMJ, or any good magazine, are examples of people accomplishing this aim. I want to use my editorship to affect change, and I think that this desire has come through in my first issue.

We have printed articles written on the responsibility of medical students to bring about equality in healthcare, worldwide. That can come in the form of providing access to services and medicines, which Medsin tirelessly campaigns for (page 19) or movements that challenge modern ideology, such as the Divest campaign, giving us all a reason to pause for fossil-free thought (pages 6-12).

Of course, for any idea to get off the ground, people have to hear about it and pay attention. George Huntington looks at the barriers to accessing scientific research (page 22). That’s well and good if your populace is motivated to seek the truth, but what if, as so often happens, people ignore the evidence? Katie Pearson (page 24) looks at fad diets of the ages, while Eamonn Hickey (page 27) analyses medical phone apps intended to improve your health. They come to much the same conclusion, people ignore the evidence and think a quick fix will suffice.

Part of getting people to act, then, is encouraging them to engage with the evidence, sometimes in the face of common sense. Perhaps that’s why I’m so excited to be publishing a magazine, because the facts are literally printed in black and white; not to be ignored. It’s important not to bore your audience, though. All of the facts in the world won’t get the disincentivised masses to care, so if all of the above isn’t enough to whet your appetite, look inside for interesting articles on whistleblowing (page 14), how to care for deaf patients (page 29) and of course, the staple book reviews (page 44).

Despite my well-meaning intentions, I appreciate that I don’t have all of the answers (or any, perhaps there are none), but if you don’t have a dog in the fight, you’re resigned to accept someone else’s answers, and they may turn out to be wrong, too.

Thanks to the committee for their hard work, making this issue go as smoothly as possible. Also to Lizzie Abbey whose advice was invaluable, and Ellen Newberry for designing and putting together the issue.

Lastly, any dreams or plans I make for Northwing will only be realised if we know what engages you, the reader. Please let us know what you want to see more of and what we should avoid. Even better, show us! We are always accepting submissions, and are keen to work with all budding writers. If prizes are what take your fancy, keep an eye on our Facebook page for news and details of the next competition.

Michael du Boulay


North Wing September 2015

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