Global EM- an incredible conclusion to #DevEM2020

From Human Trafficking to Medicine in Immigration Facilities to Anthropology in EM this is sure to be a fantastic and thought provoking way to conclude DevelopingEM 2020.

Nat Thurtle has once again brought together an incredible faculty to speak on these important issues.

She has written the piece below further outlining the theme of the session, Global Emergency Medicine: Social Science and Narrative in Emergency.

Thank you Nat.


For those of us practicing in Emergency Care, we all know it to be a general specialty. 

Whether you practice in Colombia, in Australia, in Uganda, or in any other place where people come to hospital looking for help because they think they are having an emergency, you may see everything from psychosis to a nailbed injury, from neonatal sepsis to the palliation of an octogenarian, in just one day.

To borrow from the title of one of the session’s talks… ‘All of Life is Here’.

It’s almost 15 years since I first worked in an emergency department, and I still sometimes see things I’ve never seen before. 

I often see things that I know I cannot fix, or things that we can maybe put a bandaid on or give a placebo to, that in reality will do nothing, or nothing beyond short-term relief.

I’m sure you do too. 

And that can feel like a failing, not just of us as individual Emergency Care practitioners, but of the discipline of medicine itself.


If we broaden our ‘generalness’ to engage and integrate with other disciplines, including the Social Sciences such as psychology, anthropology, political science, we can perhaps understand more, not only about what might be offered to patients when there is no straightforward medical option for their presentation, but also about the determinants of their emergency, of their behaviour, and ours. 

We can weave these different inputs into a story, their story, our story, into a narrative.

Narrative Medicine encourages the recognition of patient experience and the psychological dimensions of physical illness so we can develop a more holistic approach.   


In the session this year, we welcome a broad array of incredible speakers with diverse experience.

Caitlin L. Chandler is an investigative journalist based in Berlin who covers migration, security and human rights and has worked extensively in advocacy.  She is going to talk to us about the concept of bearing witness in emergency. 

Dr Hanni Stoklosa is an Emergency Physician based in Boston who will share her expertise on the topic of identifying and managing the impact of human trafficking in the emergency department. 

I will then share some perspectives on the marginal space where Australian doctors are engaging with the health of the refugee population affected by Australia’s offshore processing policy. 

We welcome back Dr Kathleen Thomas, an intensive care doctor, who will share the challenges of attempting to build a grassroots medical advocacy campaign against the deliberate targeting of hospitals in war. 

Dr Darryl Stellmach is a former aid worker/manager who is now a medical anthropologist with MSF. He will talk about his work applying anthropology in humanitarian emergencies with MSF.

And finally we also welcome back MSF doctor and rural generalist Dr Amy Neilson to talk about narrative in humanitarian medicine, perhaps a way that we can thread it all together.


We will also have two panel sessions where we hope to get some discussion flowing and hear about your thoughts on how narrative medicine and the social sciences can feed into what we do in Emergency Care.

I’m super grateful to have the opportunity to curate what I hope will be another fantastic Global Emergency Care session at Developing EM and can’t wait to welcome you to participate in beautiful Cartagena.

Nat Thurtle

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