New card game brings 'Mind-Boggling Medical History' to life

medical histories

Mind-Boggling Medical History is available as a physical card pack to those working in education, nursing, public engagement and museums.

1) Eating too many bananas makes you grow more body hair by increasing levels of potassium.

2) Maggots are used in hospitals to clean infected wounds.

3) Excessive cycling can cause permanent damage to the muscles in the face.

Look at the statements above. One refers to current medical thinking, one is an idea from the past, and one has been made up entirely. But which is which (answers below)?

These are just some of the weird and wonderful statements put to people who play Mind-Boggling Medical History, a game developed by Oxford's Dr Sally Frampton and colleagues, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Mind-Boggling Medical History is an educational game designed to challenge preconceptions about history and show how ideas in medicine change for a variety of reasons. From floating kidneys and wandering wombs to transplanted heads and dogs that detect diseases, the game challenges players to look at a series of statements and decide which concern current medical practice, which are based on historical ideas or practices no longer used, and which have been, well, made up.

Players can choose from a number of rounds related to different medical themes, including sex and reproduction, animals, mind, and treatment. A physical card pack is available to those working in education, nursing, public engagement and museums, and an online version is freely available to all.

The game draws on the interdisciplinary work of the Constructing Scientific Communities project, led by Professor Sally Shuttleworth of Oxford’s Faculty of English, which explores the concept of citizen science in the 19th and 21st centuries.

Dr Frampton said: 'Mind-Boggling Medical History originated as a public engagement activity for museum events. Because it had such a positive reception, we decided to apply for Arts and Humanities Research Council funding to help develop the game into a more sophisticated learning resource designed to aid critical thinking.

'The game is aimed at school students, nursing and medical undergraduate students, and museum visitors. Our collaboration with the Royal College of Nursing has been a really important part of the project and has helped us explore how the game might be used by healthcare students to get them thinking about the ways medical knowledge and scientific evidence change over time.

'Through the game we have tried to build on the objective of the Constructing Scientific Communities project of enhancing understanding of public engagement with medicine and science. We hope it will also show how historical facts and theories can be used to prompt questions about current understandings of medicine and science.'

Answers: (1) Fictional; (2) Present; (3) Past.

- Stuart Gillespie