CANI member and student of ancient Greek, Dr Patrick Bell, has been awarded second prize in the Open University’s Stephen Kassman Memorial Essay competition. The competition is open annually to all OU classics students. Asked about the award Patrick said:
‘My OU studies in classics represented longstanding unfinished business. At school in the 1960s opting for science subjects meant dropping Latin and much else. My interest in classics was kept alive as I encountered all sorts of connections whilst studying and later practising medicine. When retirement came 4 years ago, embarking on a BA in Classical Studies was an easy choice. It turned out to be a great experience, not least because of uniformly excellent tuition and support. I completed my degree last year and, when the final assessment was cancelled, had time to enter the Kassman Essay Prize.
In the year of coronavirus I used the benefit of a medical background to examine under the heading ‘Plague and pandemic: echoes down the ages’ how ancient Greek literary sources dealt with plague. It soon became clear from the chosen sources, Homer’s Iliad, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, that the attitudes and responses of the ancients are still relevant today. Specifically we see the same mistakes being made; explaining events in entirely irrational ways, indulging in a toxic blame culture and avoiding difficult political decisions.
I have taken a break from OU studies since the summer, but was recruited by my old medical school in Belfast to deliver a talk on ‘The Legacy of the Classics in Medicine’ in one of our undergraduate special study modules. I hope there may be other opportunities to demonstrate the importance of classics to the next generation of doctors.