Friday, 24 May 2013


I return from a partially terrifying and partially uplifting open meeting with the Vice-Chancellor to discover that I have been a) promoted and b) translated to an entirely new discipline. And that's not all: I'm already top of the class!
Dear Professor [VOLE] 
Re: INVITATION TO SPEAK - MEDXPO 2013 4-6 July Alexandra Palace - London - UK 
We recently tried contacting your office to offer you the opportunity of becoming a key-note speaker at the above Medical Conference and Exhibition in order to deliver a one hour paper on any speciality subject of your choice to like-minded professionals within the medical field - please note we do not charge for this opportunity. 
MEDXPO is the first major and prestigious international medical exhibition and congress ever to be held in the UK and is expected to attract in excess of 10,000 delegates and visitors.The International audience will consist of like-minded professioal and medical practitioners and other key-note speakers which to date include Sir Peter Mansfield, Dr Will Loh, Dr Jay H Sanders, Prof Christopher B-Lynch, Dr Ron Daniels, and Prof Ahmed Qassim Al-Ansi to name but a few.
I am very, very tempted to accept. It's free, it's in That London and I'd be hanging with my peers: a Nobel winner, a man who stops you dying of blood loss 'down there' after giving birth, and the Somali Minister for Public Health.

But no. Surely a major exhibition would have the resources to distinguish between a snarky lecturer in English and Media studies and the extremely distinguished physician of the same name at a completely different institution? But perhaps not.

Anyway, I'm convinced. As luck would have it, I'm flying out to Nigeria the day afterwards to meet some gentlemen who tell me they have Mr Gadaffi's nest egg and would like me to help them invest it. I can call in on my way to the airport.

Actually, I changed my mind and sent this reply:
Dear Anca,I'm sure that a major organisation such as yours should be able to work out which [Plashing Vole] to invite. I am a lecturer in Welsh literature. If you still want me, my fees are relatively modest compared with the delegate charges. Let me know.

And not only that, the debates are chaired by 'TV's Dr Dawn Harper'.

Who? I must confess that I had to look that up myself. But here she is.

She must be a great doctor. Cleavage and a white coat? And the order of priorities on her website make me think she must be at the top of her profession: Profile; Television; Medical Articles; Wardrobe. How does Dr Harper sorry, Dr Dawn make a crust?

Dr Dawn is a part time GP in Gloucestershire where she has a particular interest in women’s health, preventative medicine and weight management. The rest of her week is spent talking and writing in the media on medical issues.
Dr Dawn presents Channel 4′s most popular show Embarrassing Bodies, Embarrassing Bodies Live from the clinic and the BAFTA award winning website She is also a resident GP on ITV’s “This Morning”. She has appeared on numerous other television programmes; Channel 4 Paralympics Breakfast Show and a Paralympic Million Pound drop charity show other appearances include 10 o’clock Live, The Gadget Show and The Wright Stuff on Five, Sunrise on Sky, Looking Good Feeling Great & Today on ITV. 

I see. Alexander Fleming, previous Nobel winners and the heroes of public health must feel pretty damn small after reading that CV. Dr John Snow may have saved a lot of lives, but I bet he never poked someone in rectum for the amusement of the post-pub audience.

Anything else?
She also regularly presents medical corporate videos and is involved with health related PR activities and campaigns involving radio days and press briefings
Well of course she is.

But maybe I'm being mean to 'Dr Dawn'. Let's look at Medical Articles. Maybe the leading medical journals are crammed to the gunwales with learned published work forging new paths in health science.  And please note: it's not actually Medical Articles, it's
This is Dawns archive of published articles.
Definitely kosher despite the tragic loss of an apostrophe (coroner's report due soon). Published articles, just like the ones I have coming out shortly, peer-reviewed, footnoted up to the kidneys and open to the scrutiny of the experts. Yes?

Er… no. It turns out that Dawn's 'published articles' are 'articles' on 'Pins and Needles', 'Bruises', 'Dandruff', 'Puffy Eyes', 'Itchy Bottom' and a host of other threats to civilisation as we know it which are 'published' in exactly the same way as my dyspeptic rants are 'published'. I.e., on here, with no mediation between my walnut brain and your piggy eyes.

So, 'Dr Dawn', why does my bottom itch?
I have started getting a very itchy bottom, particularly around my anus. The itchiness is worse at night and it’s very sore when I go to the toilet. I’m too embarrassed to ask my doctor about it, can you help? 
I’m afraid top of my list of possible diagnoses would be that you have worms. The adult worms lay their eggs on the skin around the anus at night causing itching and as revolting as it sounds you are then probably passing eggs from under your fingernails into your mouth. You can break the cycle by bathing every morning paying particular attention to your anal area and being fastidious about hand washing and nail scrubbing before handling food and after every visit to the toilet. You can also buy a powder containing piperazine from the chemist which you take as a one off dose and repeat 14 days later.
That, by the way, is the entire 'published medical article'. We don't know who the patient is (surely it can't be fictional?) But it's pretty clear that if this is a 'published medical article', then I can submit this blog to the REF committee and expect my Regius Professorship of Poetry pretty darn soon.

Elsewhere she suggests that 'red vine leaf' may help your swollen ankles, and discloses the surprisingly accessible sources of her sartorial brand (mostly Coast, ladies).

But I'll finish by leaving you with some of Dr Dawn's own words, in case you feel like being sarcastic about her or taking any of her medical advice:

Liability for reliance of visitors on answers to medical questions
This website ( and Dr Dawn Harper’s Facebook an Twitter pages located at and (“the Sites”) are provided for information only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking professional medical advice or receiving medical care by a qualified doctor or other health care professional. You should always consult with your doctor if you have any concerns about your condition or treatment as they will be trained in the observation and interpretation of symptoms and will be able to provide a proper diagnosis based on a knowledge and understanding of all aspects of your condition and your medical history. No warranties or representations are made as to the accuracy of the information that appears on the Sites. Any decision about your health or medical care based solely on information obtained from the web could be dangerous. Whilst we hope that you will find the sites linked to of interest, no responsibility of any nature whatsoever is accepted for any links to websites that appear on the Sites or any information contained in them. All users agree that all access and use of the Sites and the content that appears on them is at their own risk. Neither [Otter Medical Ltd] nor any party involved in creating, producing or delivering this website shall be liable for any direct, incidental, consequential, indirect or punitive damages arising out of access to, use (or misuse of) or inability to use this website, or any errors or omissions contained in it or accessible via it. No advice or information, whether oral or written, obtained by you from the Sites shall create any warranty or other obligation on our part and all implied warranties, conditions, terms, representations, statements, undertakings and obligations whether expressed or implied by statute, common law, custom, usage or are excluded to the fullest extent permitted under the law. 
Documents published by Otter Medical Ltd. on the World Wide Web may not be copied other than for non-commercial individual reference with all copyright or other proprietary notices retained, and thereafter may not be recopied, reproduced or otherwise redistributed.
Otter Medical Ltd will use reasonable efforts to include accurate and up-to-date information on this website, but Otter Medical Ltd makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy. All users agree that all access and use of this website and the content thereof is at their own risk. Neither Otter Medical Ltd nor any party involved in creating, producing or delivering this website shall be liable for any direct, incidental, consequential, indirect or punitive damages arising out of access to, use of or inability to use this website, or any errors or omissions in the content thereof.

I think you'll find all the major research scientists talk like this.*

*This guarantee is not a guarantee. Guarantee void if read by anyone.


Huxley said...
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Huxley said...
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Huxley said...

It's just creepy! It's bad enough having the same name as me, let alone the fact that it's all to do with embarrassing illnesses. God forbid. Seriously though, it's been the subject of laughter in our household for years ...

CynicalDerek said...

I used to be in charge of Online Learning at my university. I'm retired now so don't have to promote it. If I was to be in charge today I would remove all of the 'learning' technology from the campus and just ask students to use whatever suits them even if that is just face to face conversation. I don't think technology adds to or detracts from the learning experience much at all if the learning experience is passably well organised.