We’re delighted to introduce the 15 Early Career Researchers who have been selected to present their cutting edge research at the AHRC Science in Culture Theme Ignite event on 26th March 2014. The event will be held at the Natural History Museum and limited tickets are still available.

The second Science in Culture Theme Ignite Speaker is:

DEBORAH PADFIELD, Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, ‘Pain: Speaking the Threshold’

Deborah Padfield with Alison Glenn from the series face2face  © Deborah Padfield

Deborah Padfield with Alison Glenn from the series face2face
© Deborah Padfield

In the spirit of Ignite can you describe your topic in 140 characters?

Introducing a new visual communication tool for clinical use developed out of photographs of pain co-created with pain sufferers.

What would you like people to take away from your Ignite talk?

An overview of the face2face project researching the impact of images of pain on doctor-patient communication.  Awareness of the potential of images to expand pain dialogue in the consulting room to include aspects of experience frequently omitted using traditional measures such as: ‘rate your pain on a scale of one to ten’.  Awareness that images can re-generate the language of both clinciian and patient and increase mutual understanding. To have experienced the photographic images we produced and their ambiguity which I believe allows them to broaden the discourse in the pain clinic. A greater understanding of the difficulties of communicating pain for pain sufferers and the linguistic chasm between those experiencing and those witnessing chronic pain which I believe can be addressed through images. Benefits of having different disciplinary perspectives in the development and analysis of clinical studies. That art can inform medical practice and intersect with it in a deeply integrated way rather than at a surface or decorative level.

How did you get involved in interdisciplinary research across Sciences and Arts and Humanities?

I experienced the best and the worst of medical practice and communication during a period of illness which also lead to a change of career from the theatre to fine art, specifically lens based practice. I began collaborating with clinicians from my treating pain management team at St Thoma’s Hospital on a project exploring whether visual images could provide an alternative language for pain, which developed into the perceptions of pain project.with Dr Charles Pither  Since then I have collaborated with a number of organisations and clinicians.  More recently I became interested in communication across different perspectives more than in pain itself.  I have been able to explore this further and investigate the additional difficulties associated with facial pain in a current collaboration with facial pain specialist Prof Joanna Zakrzewska and clinicians and patients from the facial pain management teams at UCH.

Tell us a bit about your academic background.

I re-trained in fine art after a period of illness, doing my foundation at Chelsea College of Art & Design.  I went on to do a BA at Middlesex University during which time I went on what was for me an influential exchange visit to FAMU in Prague. On return and in my last year at Middlesex I applied for a sciart research award with Dr Charles Pither, out of which the project perceptions of pain emerged.  I carried on developing the reserach with medical colleagues and realised that it would probably benefit my pratice and strenghthen my ability to reflect on and articulate questions arising from it if I were also immersed in the creative environemnt of my own discipline.  I was subsequently accepted onto the PhD programme  at the Slade, at the same time as having an artists residency at UCH where I developed the face2face project collaborating with Prof Joanna Zakrzewska which generated material for analysis.

For information on the face2face project please see:  http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slade/research/student/archived-research/mphil-phd-research/project-9.  I was supervised by an interdisciplinary team: Dr Sharon Morris (Writer and Academic, Slade School of Fine Art, Professor Joanna Zakrzewska (Orofacial Pain Specialist, UCH), with psychological support from Dr Amanda C de C Williams (Psychology, UCL) and practice supervision from Dryden Goodwin (Fine Art, Slade School of Fine Art).  I now have a three year funded early career research fellowship from CHIRP, UCL  to develop the work further with an interdisciplinary team.  For more information about the new project please see: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slade/research/staff/current-research/project-14

A film of Dr Deborah Padfield’s presentation at the AHRC Science in Culture Theme Ignite event is available here.