Talking with doctors - views from both sides

19 November 2013

How do doctors deal with the emotional side of medicine?

At a free public talk hosted by the University of Sydney this Wednesday, Professor Stewart Dunn from the University's Sydney Medical School will present Talking with doctors - views from both sides.

Professor Stewart Dunn has spent more than thirty years studying the relationships between doctors and their patients. Particularly, how they communicate and share information, and how they manage the emotional trauma involved in serious illness.

"Medical knowledge is expanding faster than our ability to assimilate and apply it effectively," he said.

"Thanks to the internet, there is a significant expansion in the information that patients can bring to consultations with their doctors.

"Considering these changes, how can patients and doctors then talk meaningfully to each other when the emotional stakes are often very high and information exchange becomes a minefield?

"The lecture will examine research about how doctors deal with the emotional side of medicine, especially how they cope with people at extremely vulnerable times in their lives."

Professor Dunn said identifying and being upfront about emotional concerns, especially in the case of cancer, is a better approach for both patients and doctors.

"We studied a group of 400 cancer patients who discussed their emotional concerns first, and it worked better for both patient and doctor," he said.

Professor Dunn will address a number of topics including:

• What are doctors like as human beings?
• Why do they choose medicine as a career?
• Do they change through their careers?
• How do they think about us as patients?
• How do they feel about us as patients?
• Do they listen? Do they hear us? Do they care?
• How can we talk to them?
• Key things for patients to get the most out of their medical consultation.

The talk is the seventh in a series of medicine lectures being hosted by the University every Wednesday until 27 November entitled 21st Century Medicine Lecture Series: today's research, tomorrow's healthcare.

Chairing the talk tonight is Martin Tattersall, Professor of Cancer Medicine at the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Professor Tattersall has been a cancer physician at RPAH since 1977, he believes that good communication is a critical component of cancer treatment.

About Professor Dunn: Stewart Dunn is Professor of Psychological Medicine in Sydney Medical School - Northern and Associate Dean for Admissions. He is based at Royal North Shore Hospital, and is Visiting Medical Psychologist at the Mater Hospital.

He has extensive teaching commitments in the Sydney Medical Program and his clinical specialty is psychological care of cancer patients and their families. He has published widely in psychological aspects of medical illness and doctor-patient communication, and he has received nine research travel awards and seven teaching awards including the Sydney Medical School Outstanding Teaching Award in 2005 and PaLMS Excellence in Clinical Teaching Award in 2008.

Event details:

Title: Talking with doctors - views from both sides

Speaker: Professor Stewart Dunn, Professor of Psychological Medicine at Royal North Shore Hospital and Sydney Medical School

Date: Wednesday, 20 November 2013

When: 6pm - 7.30pm

Venue: Law School Foyer, New Law School, Eastern Avenue, the University of Sydney

Cost: Free and open to all with registration requested.

Event contact: Tina Burge 02 9114 1309, 0422 915 112,

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