Dr Gregory O’Dea, Associate Dean of the Honors College and UC Foundation Professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, has been awarded The Nicholas E. Davies Memorial Scholar Award from the American College of Physicians (ACP), the national organization of medical internists.
The award was presented at ACP’s annual convocation ceremony on Thursday, May 5, 2016, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, in Washington D.C., where ACP hosted its annual scientific conference, Internal Medicine 2016, through May 7.
The Nicholas E. Davies Memorial Scholar Award was established in March 1992 in honor of Dr. Davies, a Regent and President-elect of the College. The award is given for outstanding scholarly activities in history, literature, philosophy, and ethics and contributions to humanism in medicine. The award is not limited to those directly involved in medicine, but is given to one who has a deep awareness of the importance of humanism, particularly poetry and history, as one important avenue to the needs of the physician as he or she deals with human issues in health, illness, and death.
“I’m of course very honored to receive this award, which honors the life and work of a true pioneer in medical humanities,” said O’Dea. “I’ve always believed that medicine is a human art that uses science, an interpretive activity for tending to sick people, not just treating disease or injury. My work with medical practitioners over the years has sought to make that argument, and to help them better read and interpret the vastly complicated narratives their patients offer. It’s always been gratifying to hear how much health care givers appreciate this approach, and it’s especially gratifying that the American College of Physicians recognizes the value of this work that so many of us do.”
O’Dea also delivered the 2016 Nicholas E. Davies Memorial Scholar Lecture, entitled “Ethics of The Falling Man: Fifteen Years On.” His lecture examined the ethics of witnessing catastrophe in the moment of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and how such witnessing evolved in the days and years following. The ethical framework he outlined has significant implications for the physician witnessing patient histories and catastrophes over time.
O’Dea has directed medical humanities workshops for the Tennessee chapter of ACP for 18 years. He has developed and led similar sessions for the Georgia ACP chapter, and workshops for National ACP Annual Sessions. He has built a rich tradition for blending fiction, poetry, memoir, and essay into themes directly relevant to physicians and the people for whom they provide care. Though formally a scholar of nineteenth-century British literature, he embodies the unique traits of broad scholarly inquiry which defined Dr. Davies.
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 143,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related sub-specialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness.