Global Health Summer School visit to the Hunterian Museum: report by Pennie Quinton

By Pennie Quinton, PhD candidate in Global Health & Social Medicine.

The Department of Global Health and Social Medicine once again hosted a successful Global Health Summer School, which ran for three weeks from the end of June to mid-July. The Summer School team led by Professors Nik Rose and Anthea Tinker were pleased to welcome thirty students from across the world. Many of the students were studying pharmacy at the University of Singapore and were looking to increase their knowledge of the sociology of medicine, while other students hailed from the USA, Peru, Spain, China and Japan. In previous years the Summer School was solely convened by Sridhar Venkatapuram but this year he handed the reins over to a summer school team, who invited staff and students to deliver lectures from the broad range of subjects on the sociology of health offered by the department. The Global Health Summer School was supported and structured by a dedicated team of doctoral students: Alex Bowman, Guntars Ermansons, Pennie Quinton, Stephen Roberts, and Abin Thomas and proved to be a wonderful opportunity to gain valuable experience in developing a study programme that utilised the varied skills and expertise within a talented staff and student partnership.

Image by Paul Dean under Creative Commons Licence

Image by Paul Dean under Creative Commons Licence.

The summer school also offered an excursion to the Huntarian Museum of surgery on Lincolns Inns Field and to the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road. At the Huntarian the students were taken on a guided tour of the vast collection of medical specimens.

The tour guide who introduced himself as a retired paediatric surgeon told the students the story of how the skeleton of Charles Byrne also known as the ‘Irish Giant’ came to be housed in the collection.

At 7 feet 7 inches tall, Byrne left his home in Ireland when he was 19 and travelled to London to make his fortune as a freak; where he enjoyed wealth and fame. Suffering from tuberculosis and an alleged love of gin, he died a few years later. In advance of his death and knowing that John Hunter was desperate to have his body for the collection, Byrne arranged to be buried at sea in an iron coffin. Hunter’s men way laid the cart bearing Byne’s body to the harbour and large sums of money were exchanged. His body was then returned to Hunter’s workshop, where Mr. Byrne’s corpse was boiled in acid to remove the flesh and his skeleton was then exhibited. At the end of his narrative, the tour guide asked the students whether they thought the skeleton of John Byrne had now been in the Museum for long enough and should now have his wish of being buried at sea.

Many of the students felt that yes, Byrne should finally have his last wishes granted.

With a slight twinkle in his eye the tour guide then asked, “but what if I told you that when researchers carried out DNA analysis on Byrne’s teeth their findings revealed he had a rare genetic condition, discovered only in 2006, that can cause tumours in the pituitary gland leading to excessive growth. The research team had previously found the mutation in four families from Northern Ireland, near where Mr. Byrne was born. Following a hunch, they decided to test whether Mr. Byrne had had the mutation, too, and whether the mutation indicated that the four families were related to him. Their hunch was right. The group, led by Dr. Marta Korbonits, professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, went on to publish their findings in The New England Journal of Medicine. What do you say now, bury him at sea?”

The students then appeared significantly divided on the ethical issue of denying a dead man his last wishes with fewer hands voting in favour of granting Byrne his final wish of being buried at sea. The story of Byrne the Irish Giant and the ethical question of the disposal of his remains was just one of the many discussions on bioethics discussed over the three week summer school and the school of Global Health & Social Medicine looks forward to carrying on such discussions with a new cohort of international students in summer 2017.

For more on Charles Byrne, see In a Gian’ts Story, a New Chapter Writ by His DNA

Follow Pennie @penrosequinton


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Jan Deckers’ book launch September 2nd: Animal (De)liberation: Should the Consumption of Animal Products Be Banned?

When: Friday September 2nd :17.30-19.00 hrs

WhereThe Keynes Library (room 114), Birkbeck, University of London. The Keynes Library is in the School of Arts, 46 Gordon Square. It is building 13 on the central London map that you can find here:; see also

About the book

jan deckersIn this book, Jan Deckers addresses the most crucial question that people must deliberate in relation to how we should treat other animals: whether we should eat animal products.

Many people object to the consumption of animal products from the conviction that it inflicts pain, suffering, and death upon animals. This book argues that a convincing ethical theory cannot be based on these important concerns: rather, it must focus on our interest in human health. Tending to this interest demands not only that we extend speciesism—the attribution of special significance to members of our own species merely because they belong to the same species as ourself—towards nonhuman animals, but also that we safeguard the integrity of nature.

In this light, projects that aim to engineer the genetic material of animals to reduce their capacities to feel pain and to suffer are morally suspect. The same applies to projects that aim to develop in-vitro flesh, even if the production of such flesh should be welcomed on other grounds.

The theory proposed in this book is accompanied by a political goal, the ‘vegan project’, which strives for a qualified ban on the consumption of animal products. Deckers also provides empirical evidence that some support for this goal exists already, and his analysis of the views of others—including those of slaughterhouse workers—reveals that the vegan project stands firm in spite of public opposition.

Many charges have been pressed against vegan diets, including: that they alienate human beings from nature; that they increase human food security concerns; and that they are unsustainable. Deckers argues that these charges are legitimate in some cases, but that, in many situations, vegan diets are actually superior.

About the author

Jan Deckers has taught and researched at Newcastle University (UK) since 2001. He developed his specialism in bioethics while obtaining a PhD from the University of St Andrews (Scotland) and degrees in philosophy, religious studies, and theology from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).

Participation is free, but registration is required as places are limited. You can register here:

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Exciting News: We are changing name! To ‘Department of Global Health & Social Medicine’

We are excited to announce our Department is changing its name: as from 1st August 2016, we are changing our name to Department of Global Health & Social Medicine.


imagesWe think this new name provides a better reflection of our growing portfolio of teaching and research in both global health and social medicine, our key role in the Kings-wide initiative on global health, and our wish to reimagine the idea of social medicine for the 21st century.

We remain an interdisciplinary department with a firm rooting in the social sciences, with research and teaching linked to philosophy, ethics, politics, history and the law, part of the School of Global affairs within the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy. Our aim is to bring disciplinary and interdisciplinary research of the highest quality to bear upon local, national and transnational challenges of health equity and social justice across the life course.

The motto of the Department remains “Health is more than a medical matter“.

Applications for our Master’s programmes for entry September 2016 are still open for Home/EU students.

We offer Masters programmes in:

Programme title Qualification Admissions Tutor Apply
Ageing & Society MA/MSc/PG Dip/PG Cert Dr Mayumi Hayashi Apply online
Bioethics & Society MA/PG Dip/PG Cert Dr Silvia Camporesi Apply Online
Gerontology MSc/PG Dip/PG Cert Dr Mayumi Hayashi Apply Online
Global Health & Social Justice MSc/PG Dip/Cert Dr Sridhar Venkatapuram Apply Online
Medicine, Health & Public Policy  MSc/PG Dip/PG Cert Dr Courtney Davis Apply Online
Public Policy & Ageing MA/PG Dip/PG Cert Dr Mayumi Hayashi Apply Online


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Mark the date December 9th Institute of Medical Ethics 1st Public Lecture : Duncan Wilson on ‘Medical Ethics – a Challenge or Support for Professionals?’

We are delighted to announce the 1st Institute of Medical Ethics (IME) Public Lecture with Duncan Wilson, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM)
University of Manchester: “Medical Ethics – a Challenge or Support for Professionals?”

When: Friday December 9th, 2016

5.00-5.30 registration
5.30-6.45 Lecture and presentation
6.45 drinks reception

WhereRoyal Society of Medicine

DUNCAN WILSON is a lecturer in the history of science and medicine at the University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM). His work investigates the interplay between changing notions of health, disease and morality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and he is the author of two books: Tissue Culture in Science and Society: The Public Life of a Biological Technique in Twentieth Century Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and The Making of British Bioethics (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 2014). You can read the review of Duncan’s “The Making of British Bioethics” written by Dr Silvia Camporesi for the American Journal of Bioethics here.

As part of this free to attend event the Very Revd Ted Shotter will be presented with the prestigious 2017  Henry Knowles Beecher Award from the Hastings Center for Bioethics. Revd Ted Shotter  was Director of Studies, London Medical Group, 1963-1989; founder of the Journal of Medical Ethics, 1975; Director (and founder), Institute of Medical Ethics, 1974-1989; Dean of Rochester, 1989-2003; Chairman, University of Greenwich Research Ethics Committee, 1995-2003; FRSM 1976. He was made Hon FRCP in 2007.

This event is free but you need to register.

Click here to book your place:

Follow IME on Twitter: @IMEweb

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Mark your diaries for SSHM Induction Day Wednesday September 21st, 2016

Please mark your diaries for departmental Induction  (Orientation) Day for all new students (postgraduate and undergraduate students) on Wednesday 21st September 2016.

More details will be posted here in August, and also emailed to all offer holders.

For inquiries you can contact: (SSHM Undergraduate Programme Officer)

or (SSHM Postgraduate Programme Officer)

(but please wait until later in August to do so!)

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