Return to The Gordon Museum of Pathology

Thursday evening this week something very exciting happened. I had the absolute pleasure of being invited along to the Cellular Pathology Discussion Group December 2017 Meeting at The Gordon Museum thanks to my friend Simon pulling a lot of strings.

I turned up at the Gordon Museum ten minutes before the allocated start time, particularly because I had been told there were nibbles and drinks to be had. I was told upon arrival to get down to the room where they were soon ‘before they ran out’. I’m not one to move slowly when food is at stake and I was even told to slow down on the old stone spiral staircase that is in the middle of the museum. I helped myself to two sandwiches and, of course, a mince pie. I found my friend Simon who seemed very tied up in organising so I left him with some encouraging words I hoped would help and began to explore.

A very friendly group had gathered in the room at the bottom of the museum, but socially awkward me hid in plain sight at a table and began forming a plan of how to spend the next hour before the talks began. I decided to have a little look around the museum as I’m not one to waste time or food it would seem. In case you haven’t read my previous article on this museum I will highlight my favourite items once again. I adore the the Joseph Towne wax models with all of my heart. This love has grown ever since I attended a talk at The Florence Nightingale Museum by Bill Edwards regarding them and since I last came here and saw them for myself. Luckily I could spend an age admiring them so I used up the spare time I had taking them in once again. They’re the kind of object you could stare at for hours and notice something new or different every five minutes.

I finally took my seat, hiding right at the back but early enough to actually get a seat. I had heard that they had enough seating room for around 50 but over 70 people in attendance. It’s very pleasing to see such a high turnout for events like this! Once in my seat I pulled out a notebook my friend Corinna had bought me when I left my previous job at Guy’s hospital- it seemed appropriate to use this as the last time I was here I still worked with her and the career I had left for had brought me right back.

Bill Edwards had the first talk which was title Forty Years of Murder. Having joyfully experienced one of Bill’s talks previously, I knew this would be a treat and it did not disappoint. The subject of this talk was an introduction to Professor Keith Simpson who was the first Forensic Pathologist. It was fascinating to learn all about how his career developed into the origins of what we now know as forensic pathology and how he carved this path himself through his ideals of what needed to happen for it to be effective. Simpson began his career in 1932, and through a lot of self teaching and learning in his role, he became a leading figure in the Forensic world.

Bill Edwards talked us through some examples of cases that Simpson had worked on and what he had done which was considered revolutionary at the time (and we now think of as basic Forensic work) like examining the scene before it is touched by anybody and photographing the scene for evidence. He decided it was important to examine under the fingernails of victims, and became interested in looking closer at ligatures and the knots used.

We mustn’t forget that he worked in a world where this kind of work was not taken seriously and considered to almost be ‘magic’ because it was not understood. At the end of the talk we were given two videos of Simpson talking that were lovely and a perfect way to seal the talk. My favourite happened to be him being asked why he had not become a clinical doctor, upon which he replied that he had a terrible bed-side manner but a great slab-side one. I can’t help but completely understand what he means when he said that!

The second talk was by Dr Elena Pollina and titled A Stowaway with your Baby- The hidden burden of Malaria in Pregnancy. This was a fascinating, in-depth discussion of malaria and how it impacts people through their life. Dr Pollina delivered the presentation in a very effective and thought-provoking way, with parts of humour thrown in which made it easy to follow. I was especially nervous of a lot going over my head as I do not have the scientific background of everyone else in that room! However, I learnt a lot about malaria and although I had a huge coughing fit in the middle of the really scientific part (for those who don’t know, I’m in the middle of a nasty chest infection) the end really stuck with me.

It was fascinating to learn that the WHO had intended malaria to be eradicated by 1950 and this was thought to be the case. However, cases of malaria have increased significantly and with the raising global temperatures it is thought that malaria will come back to Europe and in particular the UK in years to come. I think the most gutting part of this talk was being told that although drinking gin and tonics are considered to prevent malaria because of the quinine- too much quinine will ultimately give you terrible tinnitus and make you deaf. Here was me hoping that one of my favourite tipples would help me!

The night ended and I had a little wander about the museum taking full advantage of my time there. I had a little stroll around the kidneys and livers before calling it a night. What a fabulous evening and I’m so glad I could attend. Huge thanks to the Cellular Pathology Discussions Group Committee for organising (& Simon for getting me a ticket!). Also, thank you to Bill Edwards and Dr Elena Pollina for taking the time to present their talks.

I have tried to include links to sources throughout if you would like to know more, but if you have any questions or would like to discuss anything please get in contact! Also, doesn’t The Shard look lovely at night? Took the above photo as I was walking out of the university.

MG x

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