Dr Sandra Bertman


Sandra Bertman is a thanatologist who pioneered applied arts and humanities in clinical, academic and public settings. For most of her career she was Professor of Humanities in Medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical and Graduate Schools of Nursing where she founded and directed Programs of Medical Humanities, Arts and Ethics in Healthcare. Subsequently, she held academic appointments at Dartmouth Medical School, Boston College Graduate Social Work School, and Nova University. Confronting the boundaries between disciplines and theories to incite reflective practice and renewal, her ‘Care for the Caregiver Projects’ have been presented internationally in Europe, Africa, Japan, and China. Publications include the classic handbooks Facing Death: Images, Insights Interventions; Grief and the Healing Arts: Creativity as Therapy; the UPI award-winning radio show ‘Sing-a-Song-of-Dying’; the film Dying; and the graphic documentary One Breath Apart: Facing Dissection. Honoured for her Contributions to the Field by the Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, Dr Bertman received lifetime achievement awards from both the Global Alliance for Arts & Health, the International Workgroup on Death, Dying, & Bereavement, and is the 2015 recipient from the Association for Behavioral Science and Medical Education.

Keynote Presentation
The Awe and Mystery of Our Work: Art, Spirit and Soul

'We cannot create miracles, but we can create the space where miracles can occur’

Science may give us the tools for curing, but the arts give us the tools for caring. Each of us needs periodic re-inspiration to invigorate our imaginations and souls. A painting, poem, lyric or cartoon may be just the prod to shake us out of the ruts of ordinary perception to approach suffering and the unbearable in fresh and strangely bracing ways. This presentation demonstrates how the arts challenge, instruct and support us in our endeavour to stay present with another’s suffering, and to better understand our own. Synergies between aesthetic, narrative, cultural and therapeutic competencies will be explored. ‘See one. Do one. USE ONE.’ Participants will be armed with insight, resources and techniques immediately adaptable to their own clinical and educational settings and, hopefully, with reconnection to the creativity, renewal and joy in their chosen work. The session closes with Reflections on Wholeness, a multimedia piece inviting us to be in community; to reflect on our own vulnerabilities and foibles; as well as to honour the suffering and humanity of those we serve in both our professional and personal lives.

Dr Bertman will present this session as part of the Conference program on Wednesday, 11th May 2016.