A Dry and Silent World: Part 2, ‘Pretty experiments in the laboratory’.

In this four-part series, four researchers – an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Registrar, a Dentist, an Artist and a Professor – reflect on their experience working together on A Dry and Silent World, a multi-disciplinary collaboration between the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences, Centre for Craniofacial and Regenerative Biology, King’s College London, and freelance artist Emma Barnard, brokered and sponsored by the Cultural Institute at King’s. A Dry and Silent World is an ongoing project; works produced as a result of this collaboration will be exhibited in 2019.

In part 1, ‘A little like stepping off a precipice, but a lot like coming up for air’, ENT Specialist Dr Mona Mozaffari discusses pausing clinical training to pursue a lab-based PhD and participate in the King’s Arts in Dentistry Project.

In this post (part 2), Dr Tathyane Harumi Nakajima Teshima writes about how it feels to be part of a team of scientists working with an artist. 

Part three can be read here, and part four here.

‘Pretty experiments in the laboratory’: The Dentist/Researcher

 The Hidden Disabilities project came from a brainstorm of three young clinical researchers with a common passion: to explore how challenging it can be living with dry mouth and hearing loss. Such conditions are directly linked to our research interests: whilst they are non-life-threatening, they are often overlooked by patients and clinicians. The combination of arts and science represents a beautiful tactic to bring attention to the hidden aspects of such conditions, revealing their concealed anatomy and (non) functional structures, and digging into patient sensory experience to consider the impact of such conditions on quality of life.

Delightful surprises came along with the experience of developing this project in collaboration with an artist. We were able not only to perform random, but pretty experiments in the laboratory where we routinely look for precise scientific answers; we were also part of interesting workshops to reveal more intuitive aspects of interpreting sensations, images, and even our own personalities with surprising visual outcomes. One interesting workshop was to explore our areas of work by drawing the main organs we research – the ears and the salivary glands, whilst following instructions from each other. It was impressively hard to look at my main subject in a different perspective, having to describe proportions, textures, correlations with other structures, size, appearance, shape. This exercise made me realise the power of words – and how much this can impact our communication with patients.

‘Untitled’ Digital CType Print 2018.
Digital 3D reconstruction of a young salivary gland still under development, which was obtained by combining multiple thin sections of computed tomography scans performed in the laboratory. All little round structures that resemble bunches of grapes represent the secretory units responsible to produce saliva to the oral cavity.
Image ©Emma Barnard

As a qualified dentist with PhD in Oral Pathology and Medicine, I had the opportunity to learn and perform all the clinical routines required for patients suffering with dry mouth, also learning from my research. I always enjoyed having insightful conversations with patients alongside performing their oral treatment, valuing holistic care, and it is now incredible to have the opportunity to bring light to it. The opportunity to be part of the Arts in Dentistry project provided us a great chance to explore skills and perceptions that have been perhaps forgotten. I look forward to seeing the final outcome of this two-sided learning process between arts and science. This will hopefully bring many discussions with clinicians and the general public to raise awareness of the existence and the impact of such hidden disabilities.

Dr Tathyane Harumi Nakajima Teshima, Post-Doctoral Fellow, King’s College London

A dry and silent world: living with hidden disabilities is a collaboration between the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences, Centre for Craniofacial and Regenerative Biology, King’s College London, and Emma Barnard, brokered and supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s. In collaboration with: Professor Abigail Tucker, Dr Tathyane Harumi Nakajima Teshima, Dr Monireh Mozaffari, and Dr Doris Cuckovic.

This post is part 2 of a four-part series. Post 1 can be read here, part three can be read here, and part four here

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