#RuralGPframed – bringing rural healthcare into focus

Check the end of this article for tweets and images that have been posted online since the hashtag went live…

Image from W Eugene Smith’s “A Country Doctor”.  LIFE Magazine, 1948.

the best camera is the one you have with you

1948 saw the beginning of the National Health Service in the UK.  Many of its principles were based on the development of the Highlands & Islands (Scotland) Medical Service which was launched in 1913 following the publication of the Dewar Report into the challenges of rural healthcare in Scotland – and many consider the Dewar Report to be the blueprint of today’s NHS.

1948 was also a key moment in photojournalism, when LIFE Magazine featured the photography of W Eugene Smith. His photoessay of the work of Colorado country doctor Ernest Ceriani became a benchmark for photojournalism, and remains an iconic reference in the power of photography to provide perspective and insight. A YouTube presentation of the article is available too.

Since then, photography and photojournalism has evolved significantly.   Nearly everyone now has a quality camera-phone in their pocket.  The development of digital photography has resulted in the limits of photography being confined only to battery power, memory card space, and creativity.

Dr Greg Hamill (Arran GP) and Dr Stephen Hearns (Consultant, Emergency Medical Retrieval Service) work together using ultrasound-guided vascular access in an acutely unwell patient. (Patient consent obtained).  iPhone; 2017.

And yet, some would argue that this has had the effect of devaluing the art of good photography.  Paradoxically, because photography is within such easy reach, we sometimes fail to document episodes of experience – either as we assume someone else will be, or the immediacy of image capture devalues the art of composition, style and creative depiction.  And because so many images are produced (Facebook estimates that over 300 million photos are uploaded to its website every day), it is likely that great images fail to get the recognition and prominence that they deserve.

In just over a month’s time, I will be running a ‘Practical Tips’ session at the Rural WONCA conference in Cairns, Australia – on The Visible Rural GP: developing an image bank for modern rural practice.  The idea for this evolved through a personal interest in photography and its journalistic role, an interest in ‘how do we represent rural practice to potential rural GPs’ and awareness of projects such as  Document Scotland – just one inspirational project that aims to “photograph the important and diverse stories within Scotland at one of the most important times in our nation’s history”.

A tick that I removed from a patient who presented to our Arran War Memorial Hospital one summer weekend oncall. (Assumed consent from tick).  Canon 60D, with reversed 50mm; August 2016.

Perhaps we should be considering the need for presenting inspiring, accurate visual representations of rural practice today.

And so today, in the run-up to Rural WONCA 2017, I am committing to share (via Twitter, using the hashtag #RuralGPframed) at least one photo per day, from my own images, that depicts an aspect of rural practice.

I would be delighted for others to join me.  The more images that we can collect and share, to represent the stimulation, challenge and professional satisfaction of rural practice, the more insight that others – including potential rural GPs – will have into the opportunities that rural practice can offer.

Dr Kate Dawson (GP, Benbecula) and Dr Charlie Siderfin (GP, Orkney) during a valuable opportunity to get together and discuss research opportunities in rural practice.  Fujifilm XT1; January 2017.

What about video?

‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ but video often allows a narrative and mood to be more easily captured.  Video is important, and submissions of video are welcomed to this project.

Please remember, explicit consent is required for any footage featuring patients or anything related to them. Creativity  is welcomed!

#RuralGPframed

(search Twitter)

4/4/17 Update

Within 24 hours of this post going live, we’ve had an amazing amount of coverage across the world, particularly our Australian confreres.  Keep them coming!  Here’s just a few of the tweets that we’ve picked up on the hashtag…

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