Grace Constance-Main and Michael Hardman, DTMH February 2016
As a class we were eager to get to know each other, from the moment we walked up the steps and through the double doors of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine three months ago to start the Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
There were 90 of us from a variety of different backgrounds. We had ID physicians, paediatricians, GPs, prominent public health doctors and more than a smattering of lackadaisical F3-5s. Our course director Tim O’Dempsey stated thirteen weeks is a short time, and sped up introductions by getting us to stand one by one in front of the class and declare who we were, where we came from and what we were interested in.
Kene, when questioned, stated his list of interests was entirely fabricated however at the end of the course won class award for ‘Culture Vulture’ as over the three months unveiled a remarkable talent for performance of hiphop. We had a talented group.
Rehearsals for international night started strong, within a few weeks an Irish band was formed and we had a group assembled, lyrics written, fabric, wire, spray paint and hose all acquired for a Flight of the Conchords tribute band.
Somewhere along the way it was realised, by the class and our performers, that exams were imminent, and band practice slowed. To quote a member of ‘The Durty Foleys’ our Irish ceilidh band ‘Only one of the band knows how to play the song and she's not even Irish, our caller has never called a ceilidh, it will probably be a disaster and be over within minutes’. ‘Flight of the Culicines’ lost the majority of their musicians and there was a spectacular music video that was never made.
Programmes were designed and created with comedy entries to fill in the gaps. Last minute acts put their names forward, including the Australians who had acquired a toy piano but we knew nothing more.
After our exams, the next two and a half hours in the flats across the road from the school were a chaos of cooking, sewing, dancing and singing. Organza, couscous and guitar chords littered the room. We danced a final ceilidh on the balcony of Monument Building to an audience of unsuspecting Scousers before heading over the road to the Bullring.
But somehow the night was a great success. ‘Flight of the Culicines’ went first. Once we had tied ourselves into cardboard box mosquito heads and colourful homemade wings our talented Kiwi rappers performed two parodies, which were thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd. I think we got away with our improvised dancing.
Next up was Jenna, our Canadian girl, assisted by Tim and Beth on guitar and vocals. She had prepared a song set to a backdrop of footage of her friends and family back home, displaying a tribute to Canadian women. The group also performed ‘When I’m gone’ striking cups to produce a lovely syncopated acoustic sound. They harmonised beautifully and the room fell silent in appreciation. Our Canadian girl will be sorely missed.
‘The Durty Foleys’ turned out to be incredibly talented musicians despite their doubts. The craic was had by everyone present. The previous DTM&H had challenged us to forming a band, and we accepted. When the dancing fell apart, the Scottish contingency stepped in and taught everyone ‘Strip the Willow’ and the dancing continued.
Tim and Ravi had proved earlier in the course they can produce a brilliant parody when they wrote and performed ‘Leprosy’ to the tune of Wonderwall by Oasis, an education on stigma. However they outdid themselves and returned as ‘The Notorious LGV’. A hilarious performance from start to finish, with the whole room singing out ‘Been taking all their lives, because I’m such a gangsters parasite, keep taking all their lives, because I’m a tsugatsuga chigger mite’.
Our award ceremony was presented by Ewan and Gina. A selection of marvelous prizes had been purchased by the international night committee for the winners of ‘The Typhoid Mary award for most likely to start a pandemic’ and ‘The Tsetse fly award for most likely to fall asleep in class’. Ewan showed us the spike in UK google searches for ‘lackadaisical’ after the voting poll was released, and the voting for ‘The Belgium award for most likely to fall into a trench latrine’ became bias after it became common knowledge that Ramdas had already managed this twice. Ourselves, we discovered that if you are trying to win the award for best couple, don’t put yourselves up against the brotherhood of a Welshman and a New Zealander, you have no chance.
After having Senegalese band RIMKA guest star we had a final set starring all of our Australians who performed ‘Don’t catch my disease’ followed by ‘Lean on me’. With song sheets distributed so we could all join in. This was a perfect end to the performances and an appropriate one; throughout the last three months this group has looked out for each other and celebrated each other’s achievements. If you needed something, someone has been there to lend it, and if you wanted to learn something, someone would try and teach you, whether it’s how to stand up on a surfboard, whether you are looking at a schizont or a gametocyte, how to fetch an earring out the U-bend of a sink, or where on earth the number 19 came from.
Many of us are yet to work in low and middle income countries, but for most this is why having knowledge in tropical medicine and public health is so important. It has been difficult saying goodbye but we are all now at the beginning of something, and it is time to put what we have learnt into practice. And for any of you joining the next class on the diploma, now it’s your turn, at least regarding International Night you’ve got big shoes to fill.
Thank you class of DTM&H Spring 2016 - ’It’s been tropical’.