Daniel Hall-Flavin, M.D. ’79, associate professor of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, will present the William T. Sirridge Medical Humanities Lecture at the School of Medicine at noon Thursday, March 26.
Reached by phone at the Mayo Clinic, Hall-Flavin said he planned to speak about the search for and meaning of mercy. He titled his lecture The Quality of Mercy, a nod to Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Hall-Flavin said he vividly recalls being a candidate for the B.A./M.D. program and seeing the famous passage from the play (“The quality of mercy is not strain’d/It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven”) inscribed above the entrance to General Hospital No. 1.
“I remember at 17 looking at that and just stopping,” he said. “It just grabbed me. It was something that I’ve thought about frequently since then.”
Preserved when the hospital was torn down, the frieze stands outside Truman Medical Center. Hall-Flavin said the marker is more than a vestige to a building that that no longer exists. “I think it’s really kind of a daily reminder to everybody who walks through those portals of what a critical role mercy and all that it carries with it plays in our daily practice,” he says.
After graduating from UMKC, Hall-Flavin interned in internal medicine and trained in adult psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic. He completed a fellowship in chemical dependency at Cornell University. Board-certified in addiction psychiatry, he is involved in research that seeks to identify factors, including genetic factors, which render an individual susceptible to addiction and relapse. He also studies responsivity to antidepressant medication.
Hall-Flavin said he is at a point in his career where he is able to begin to cut back on his duties at the Mayo Clinic. He hopes to use the extra time to pursue his interests in the medical humanities and bioethics. He recently applied to a master’s program in the medical humanities at King’s College in London. A frequent traveler to England, Hall-Flavin has been a visitor at a center for neuroethics at the University of Oxford and is a member of the Oxford Round Table, an American-led educational organization.
Hall-Flavin said his interests in the medical humanities and bioethics are “a natural extension of how I was trained.” His docent was the late Marjorie Sirridge, M.D. Sirridge and her husband, William Sirridge, M.D., who died in 2007, worked to increase the opportunities for UMKC students to study humanities and bioethics and eventually established the Sirridge Office of Medical Humanities and Bioethics. The William T. Sirridge, M.D., Medical Humanities Lectureship was established in 1994.
Hall-Flavin said he met with Marjorie Sirridge in early 2014, a few months before she died. “She asked me to consider doing the lecture,” Hall-Flavin said. “I said it would be an honor.”