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Half a mile of medicine
  1. John Launer
  1. Associate Editor, Postgraduate Medical Journal, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr John Launer, London, UK; johnlauner{at}

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Every year I organise an Awayday for a group of young doctors from outside London on the subject of medical humanities. Its aim is to help them look at medicine through the perspective of history and the arts. It takes the form of a walking tour, visiting some of the major medical sites in the city. The doctors are all training to be general practitioners (GPs) in Kent, so they arrive in the capital at St Pancras station which is itself a great masterpiece of Victorian gothic architecture, even if it has no particular medical associations. The vicinity of the station is also rich with other significant buildings including the Crick Institute – Europe’s biggest biomedical laboratory – and the British Library, which houses the largest collection of books and manuscripts in the world. However, the three destinations for the day are a little way further down the Euston Road: the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery, the Royal College of General Practitioners, and the Wellcome Collection. They are within a few minutes’ walk of each other, and offer one of the most concentrated introductions to developments in modern medicine anywhere in the world.

The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery commemorates one of Britain’s first women physicians (figure 1). It stands at the former site of the New Hospital for Women, which she founded so that working-class women could be treated by exclusively female doctors. Garrett Anderson was not the first woman to qualify as a doctor in the United Kingdom – Dr James Barry had done so earlier in the nineteenth century by presenting herself as a man – but she was the first who managed to exploit a loophole in the regulations and gain a licence to practise openly as a woman. Garrett Anderson first established …

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