My involvement with research in healthcare led me from The Royal College of Physicians to The University College London and its study in obesity. This provided me with the opportunity to visit UCL and to admire their own architecture and history.
The UCL was founded in 1826 and in 1878 it was the first University in England to admit female students and give them the same equal terms as their counterparts.
To look back in history holds just as much as any museum and boasts many achievements including performing the first operation under anaesthetic which was done by Robert Liston (said to be able to amputate a leg in 20 seconds!)
Obesity is the primary risk factor for T2DM (Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus) and many other health problems but the cure is a minefield. At UCL the Centre for Obesity Research within the Division of Medicine focuses on four areas of research:
- Investigating the mechanisms underlying bariatric surgery
- Gaining insights into how the gut-brain axis regulates feeding behaviour
- Gut hormones and exercise
- Insights from genetics
On a lighter note I have been on the weight loss roller coaster for much of my life and although I am not obese, I do find it difficult to lose the weight and more importantly maintain that that I have lost. I have been on many diets, one I am looking into at the moment is the Venus Factor weight loss, but I know that the only way to really succeed in the battle against the bulge is to somehow train the mind or indeed the body to take in less calories than I need. Still working on that one though.
But for some people surgery is the only option and as noted above The Centre for Obesity Research is investigating bariatric surgery and the mechanisms underlying it. This type of surgery is the most aggressive but also the most effective as it results in substantial and durable weight loss. One interesting part of their research is with exercise and gut hormones as they have found that aerobic exercise causes the greatest suppression of hunger’ and ‘high intensity intermittent exercise produces greater appetite suppression…than energy-matched continuous exercise’. So, as we always knew, exercise has to be done!
I keep a close eye on what research is going on throughout the healthcare world, not only for my job but also for myself, because the problem of obesity is always just a chocolate bar away.
I work in education and have a lot of dealings with medicine and other healthcare related information and has also enabled me to visit the Royal College of Physicians in London, England. These types of museums I really find fascinating and macabre in their teachings of how experiments used to be carried out, what healthcare remedies and practices used to be performed and how barbaric some of it was. It certainly makes you glad and grateful for being born later on in the medical world.
Being in the healthcare environment, I also get to see a myriad of research activities particularly on obesity and the dietary industry and, being somebody who is always trying to lose weight, it is an interesting topic to see how things have progressed over the years.
History’s Fad Diets
In January 2013 the BBC featured an article on the weirdest fad diets that have come and gone throughout the years. From rubber undergarments used to promote sweat to diets containing high levels of vinegar or pills that were laced with arsenic and could cause ‘arsenic poisoning’! to such practices of ‘fletcherism’ where the person would chew a certain number of times depending on what the food was (e.g. a shallot needing to be chewed 700 times!) and then spitting out what was left.
But I think the worst diet fad in the list was the consuming of tape worms. Beef tapeworm cysts would be taken by the dieter in the form of a pill, the tapeworm would then grow in the dieter’s intestines and once maturity is reached they would absorb their host’s food. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, the tapeworm could grow up to 30 feet in length and they would then have to be excreted by the dieter which ‘obviously’ could cause abdominal and rectal complications!
Yeah I think I’ll stick to my lettuce…
The RCP London
The Royal College of Physicians was established in 1518 by Henry 8th. It was to license physicians to practice and also prosecute physicians who did not have a license to practice. The museum holds a significant amount of portraits, silver objects and medical instruments. Tours of the RCP London can show you its history and the spectacular piece of architecture it resides in. Even the gardens are a wonder to walk through which continues the theme of medicine containing around 1,300 plant varieties that were all used in one way or another for medicinal purposes.
I love visiting museums and I particularly enjoy travelling to foreign places to experience their history and how it differs from ours.
This site is called Kardjali Museum after the stunning historical place in Bulgaria, (there are variations on its spelling which can also be seen as Kardjhali). This is where this site will start; with a brief introduction to this magnificent piece of history. This beautiful, regional history museum is in a breath-taking stately building and upon looking at it, you automatically get drawn into its exciting and mysterious past.
The Kardjali Museum is in Bulgaria in a stately building that was built early in the 20th century. During the period of 1934-1947 it was used for military purposes before becoming a secondary school and then part of Plovdiv University. It became a museum in 1980 and in 2005, by order of the Ministry of Culture, it was declared a nationally important architectural landmark.
My Love of Museums
I remember the first museum I ever visited, it was an ancient castle that had long been converted into a museum, but it maintained all of the décor and furniture, just as it was in age old times. I can still remember, as if it was yesterday, the musty smell as I entered through the large wooden doors and into the stoned hallway. It felt cold, colourless and very, very old. To the right was a gift shop and on the left was a set of concrete steps that led to upper floors.
But the one thing I will never forget was a sight that took my breath away…
In a huge glass cabinet that towered high above everybody was the biggest gorilla I had ever seen. It was a magnificent specimen and it had the power to stop anyone in their tracks to gape in awe at something that had once walked this earth. It appeared to be growling, its mouth slightly open, long sharp teeth sparkling and eyes wide with anger and menace, it would draw fear in the bravest of people and I was sure janitors and security guards would pass the creature very quickly on dark, eerie nights.
Another wonder of this museum was an ant farm, again in a large glass cabinet so you could see all of the tunnels and nests and the ants busy at work. I was always a bit nervous looking upon their glass cage because, although it is amazing to see so many insects in one area, the fact that there was only a single sheet of glass separating them from the rest of the world was, to me, a disaster waiting to happen.
A Hard Reality
There will always be so many things intriguing about history and the unknown of what it was really like so many years ago, without the everyday comforts that we have come to rely upon. In that fleeting second as you walk through a museum, you feel like it is a time capsule and with all of its many artefacts, makes you strive to be transported into that time and truly experience it. Although you would soon realise the harsh realities that are so different from today and that same urge would bring you running straight back to the present!
Wherever you visit in the world, there is usually a museum or a place of historic wonder that you can see; it is definitely worth taking the time to visit them and truly taking a step back in time.