2017 Hippocrates Prize: biographies in the Health Professional category

SHORTLISTED POETS

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Kathy D’Arcy is a Cork poet (Encounter 2010, The Wild Pupil 2012) currently completing an IRC-funded Creative Writing PhD in UCC, where she teaches with the Women’s Studies department. In 2013 she received an Arts Council Literature Bursary for her poem Camino. She has worked as a doctor and youth worker as well as teaching creative writing. Her play This is my Constitution was staged in 2013 at an Irish parliamentary briefing on gender. She was 2016 editor of the Cork Literary Review and is current editor of Rhyme Rag (an online poetry journal for young people). She is currently involved in the Irish Pro-Choice campaign. More at www.kathydarcy.com

About Exploratory Surgery she said: “As a young medical student I had a hard time accepting the power dynamic in the OR: how the person on the table had to trust the person standing over them with their life although they had just met; how once the person on the table was ‘under,’ their body became an inanimate puzzle to be solved, or an interesting demonstration; how it seemed necessary to let go of the idea that the body contained a person in order to be able to carry out the work of taking them apart and putting them back together. The perception of a divorce between ‘body’ and ‘person’ is an issue that needs to be talked about more in healthcare, I think.”

About Inside she said: “This poem is part of a sustained exploration of the human heart which followed my medical internship. I loved looking at cardiac imaging, watching bright air bubbles fizzing inside ventriclesduring bubble echoes, discovering that the chordae tendineae  (the ‘heartstrings’) looked like harp-strings that you could play. I wondered if I could only truly connect with others by opening their ribcages and reaching inside to hold their hearts. I wondered what it would feel like to live inside someone’s heart. This organ – not the romantic cypher, but the self-governing, muscular bag of blood that da Vinci says “does not stop unless forever” – is a source of endless fascination for me.”


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After qualification, Iora Dawes worked as a Medical Social Worker for several years in Salisbury Group hospitals and Kingsmill Hospital, Mansfield. Later, lectured in Health and Social Care in a Further Education college. Her poems were commended in the Hippocrates NHS awards in 2013 and 2016.

About Children's Ward Week Two she said: “For twelve years, I volunteered in a hospital chapel, which welcomed those of any religion or none. The banner mentioned in the poem hangs in that chapel and the words have a profound effect on those, in extremis, who sit under it.”


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Andrew Dimitri is a respiratory physician based at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, Australia, and also a field medical referent for the international humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Since 2010 Andrew’s work for MSF has taken him to some of the most complex and troubled regions of the globe, and the imprint of these often desperate situations is apparent in his poetry.

About the inspiration for It will make a fine hospital he said: “At the beginning of 2017 I was on an MSF mission in northern Iraq for the emergency response to the conflict in Mosul. On a cold winter’s morning, along with an MSF team, I surveyed the site for a new field hospital close to the front in West Mosul. This hospital is now operational and receiving high numbers of casualties from the conflict.”

COMMENDED POETS

Mo Abu-Bakra

Mo Abu-Bakra is an ophthalmic eye surgeon trained in Oxford and London. Mo Lives in Ascot and works in Windsor and Reading, Berkshire. He was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize in 2016. He is a member of the Poetry Society and values the rigorous and helpful criticism of his fellow poets at Thin Raft, Reading’s poetry workshop, Reading Stanza and Pen to Print poetry group Barking, London. He regularly reads in the open mic. sessions at ‘Poets’ Café’ in Reading. His poems appeared in Reading University Creative Arts Anthology 2017.

About his poem Ida’s Light he said: “This poem was inspired in the course of doing my everyday job by a hero of mine, Ida Mann, the first female Professor of Ophthalmology in the UK at Oxford. It is also homage to the investigative spirit of eye doctors when diagnosing their patients’ eye problems and to the profound poetic language handed down by generations of ophthalmologists when describing eye conditions”.

Louise Aronson

Louise Aronson is a geriatrician, writer, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the author of the PEN/Bingham finalist, A History of the Present Illness.  She has received the Gold Professorship in Humanism in Medicine, the California Homecare Physician of the Year award, the AOA Edward D. Harris Professionalism Award, and the American Geriatrics Society Clinician-Teacher of the Year award, as well as numerous awards for her teaching and writing. Her essays and stories can be found in literary journals, newspapers, and medical journals, including Narrative Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, New York Times, Washington Post, the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine.

About Found Medical Poetry she said: " I am enchanted by how words for one purpose can transform another and wondered whether I could say something about medicine by juxtaposing the definitions of found poetry with those of doctors and medical care."

About Dear Patient she said: "Evidence of the burnout epidemic is everywhere. I wanted to write a poem that took on some of the structural reasons for that and the harm it does to both patients and clinicians."


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Rachel Bingham is a London GP and works for Freedom from Torture, an organisation which works for rehabilitation and treatment with survivors of torture. She has worked as a medical doctor in South Africa, Egypt and the UK. She studied undergraduate philosophy and a master's degree in philosophy of mental disorder, during which she met her husband Mohammed, with whom she enjoys writing and talking philosophy. She previously won a commendation from the Hippocrates Prize for her poem Featherweight, in 2011. 

She said: "The poems Crem forms and Bedside teaching describe moments of tragedy in which a medical doctor learns to carefully select appropriate professional terms, amid complicated personal feelings. I found that putting these moments into words helped me to re-envisage their tenderness."


Debby Jo Blank
 Contrail 


Roger Bloor

Roger Bloor is a retired Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist, formerly a Senior Lecturer at Keele University Medical School. Before his retirement he held the post of Lead for Medical Humanities at Keele and was responsible for coordinating a series of modules on the Humanities and Medicine for third year medical students. He also supervised a student selected module on ‘Mad Poets” and lead seminars on Poetry and Medicine.  

On why he wrote The Memory Clinic he said: “This arose from a chance encounter in a waiting room observing a carer calming her agitated and disorientated husband by recreating a familiar and pleasant experience. The effectiveness of what she did, and the image of them sitting quietly and happily enjoying a picnic in the crowded waiting room, evolved into the poem.”


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Andrew Dimitri is a respiratory physician based at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, Australia, and also a field medical referent for the international humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Since 2010 Andrew’s work for MSF has taken him to some of the most complex and troubled regions of the globe, and the imprint of these often desperate situations is apparent in his poetry.

About Erbil 2 he said: "On a recent mission in northern Iraq for Médecins Sans Frontières , I was confronted with ethically and morally complex clinical situations which challenged my practice as a doctor. In the field, the practice of medicine can be incredibly difficult, working with limited resources in areas of great need."


Mary dowd

Mary Dowd is a physician specializing in addiction in the homeless population in Portland Maine.  She works at various addiction clinics and sometimes does a stint at the county jail. She is married and has four grown children.  Her poems have appeared in obscure and sometimes defunct literary journals.  She has led poetry workshops for the Transformational Language Arts Network at Goddard College and The Examined Life Conference in Iowa. But, reading and writing poetry with men in longterm treatment for addiction at Milestone Foundation was much more fun.  Her collection of poems, “The Heroin Diaries,” is scheduled to come out later this year.

About A Visit to the Dermatologist she said: " I wrote the poem to try to figure out why these  appointments creep me out, horrify me and make me laugh at the same time, why I put them off endlessly.


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Joseph Gascho is a cardiologist at the Penn State Hershey College of Medicine where he Professor of Medicine and Humanities. He is a poet and photographer and many of his poems are associated with medical images. He has had numerous poems published in both medical and non-medical journals. His poem in Annals of Internal Medicine,  “The Joy of Medicine”, won first prize in 2014. He has a book of poems set for publication in late 2017: Cornfields, Cottonwoods, Seagulls and Sermons: Growing Up in Nebraska.

About Death BreakfastThe Medical Student's First Code Blue and The Medical Student's First IV and said: “These are from a series of poems that arose from reflections on my life prior to medical school, the education process of medical school, residency and fellowship, and the years of practice both as a physician and a professor at a medical school. The poems attempt to portray some of the intellectual, emotional and relational tensions associated with a life in medicine.” 

Helen Gibson studied Medicine at the University of Manchester and recently took early retirement from working as a consultant paediatrician in the west of Scotland. She became interested in poetry when taking a creative writing module as part of an Open University Humanities degree in 2014. She was commended in the Health Professional category of the 2016 Hippocrates prize. 

She said: “The Neurosurgical Teaching Round evolved out of an extraordinary, unusual teaching session that occurred when I was a medical student.  It looks at the delicate balance of how much it is right to identify with and care emotionally for the patient and the consequences of failing to maintain a professional distance. It felt appropriate in memory of the patient to structure the poem as a sonnet, exploring the narrative with changes in rhythm and reflecting the casual cruelty of professionalism in the devastating power of iambic pentameter.” 

Aaron Hauptmann Early Morning Philosophy at the Children's Psychiatric Hospital 

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Maeve Henry is a data manager at the Haemophilia Centre at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford.  She had a poem commended and published in The Hippocrates Anthology 2015, and her poetry has been widely published, most recently in Magma, The Interpreter’s House, and Blood, Ink and Tears. 

She said: “Semmelweiss Writes from the Madhouse came about through my continuing fascination with the history of medicine, originally sparked by my interest in the history of the treatment of haemophilia.  I was gripped by Semmelweiss’s struggle to establish the cause of death of so many mothers under his charge, his fight to change medical practice, as well as the psychological toll it took.”

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Leah Kaminsky, is a physician and award-winning writer. Her debut novel, The Waiting Room, won the prestigious Voss Literary Prize in 2016 (Vintage 2015, Harper Perennial US in 2016). We’re all Going to Die has been described as ‘a joyful book about death’ (Harper Collins, 2016). She edited Writer MD (Knopf US, starred on Booklist) and co-authored Cracking the Code (Vintage 2015). Her poetry collection Stitching Things Together was highly commended in the Anne Elder and IP Picks Award. She is Poetry & Fiction Editor of the Medical Journal of Australia and holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. (www.leahkaminsky.com)

About the inspiration for The McGill Pain Questionnaire she said: “As a physician it is routine for me to ask my patients to describe their physical pain. More often than not I am met with silence; a complete loss for words. The problem with trying to describe pain is that the normal grammar and syntax of language are inadequate. Yet, in order to try and alleviate someone’s pain, or to ‘translate it back to them as the body’s news’, I need to understand its precise location and nature. My training in medical ritual provides me with certain tools in order to assist me with asking the ‘right’ questions. I recite them like a priestly litany each time, like poetry, but patients’ answers are often reduced to the inexpressible, or ‘howled vowels’. I’ve written more about the language of pain here."


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Valerie Laws (valerielaws.com) is a poet, crime novelist, playwright, mathematician/physicist, and sci-art installation specialist. She has worked extensively as Writer in Residence with pathologists, anatomists and neuroscientists researching death and the brain. She has thirteen books published in several genres including two crime novels, and four poetry collections, the latest being THE FACEBOOK OF THE DEAD.  Valerie performs worldwide live and in the media, and is world-infamous for spray-painting poetry on live sheep to celebrate quantum theory in QUANTUM SHEEP. She has written 12 plays for stage and BBC radio, and her science-themed poetry art installations have been exhibited internationally and featured on BBC TV.

What inspired me to write Before the NHS: My Mother’s Appendicitis? "My deep concern for the health and safety of the NHS in the UK made me want to share the story of how fear of the doctor's bill made my grandmother wait until my mother almost died of a burst appendix - how many of us would not be here now but for the NHS!” 

Ma. Arlene Lee-Ledesma

Ma. Arlene Lee-Ledesma graduated from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines,  cum laude in B.S. Biology and bene meritus in medical school. She specializes in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and is a medical consultant at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Hospital, Asian Hospital and Chinese General Hospital. Her field of expertise is in Electrodiagnostic Medicine. She is on the Faculty of the UST College of Rehabilitation Medicine and Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.

About Grandfather's Dementia she said: "Memory and recall has been a favorite theme in my poems. I have correlated dementia, a medical condition which intrigued me, with the visual imagery of sky at dawn, which facinated me as a child." 

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Shelley McAlister lives in West Sussex. She writes short fiction and poetry and has previously been a writer in residence in healthcare. She was commended in four previous Hippocrates prize years and came second in 2012.  A poetry collection, Sailing Under False Colours, was published by Arrowhead Press in 2004.

About Smoking Shelter Exit B she said: "I have never been a smoker but since the banning of smoking in so many public places, I am fascinated with the strange, random communities that form around outdoor smoking shelters. As a frequent patient in one hospital, I wheeled fellow patients out to smoke and I got to know some of the people who used the shelter, especially late at night. In writing the poem I was delighted by the notion of cure, both in relation to health and to smoking."

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Margaret McArthur lives in Herefordshire. She worked in NHS planning and service development for many years, latterly as an independent consultant with a particular interest in primary care and mental health. More recently she has been able to fulfil a lifelong desire to write and in 2014 graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University with an MA in Creative Writing.  Using the pen name Marina McArthur she has self-published one novel, a second is imminent and a third with a health topic at its heart is in research. She loves to write poetry and short stories, as the inspiration arises.

About Bone China  she said: “However well you try to live your genes can still catch up with you. Discovering that the ostensibly healthy me needed treatment for osteoporosis led me to contemplate the ironies around my ‘china’ bones.”

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David Camillus McCrory is a a 57 year old consultant colorectal surgeon working in Antrim Area Hospital and currently living in Belfast. He was commended and published in the 2015 Hippocrates Prize.  Also in 2015 he was commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Prize for his 20 poem collection 'Sruthan Millis, Sweet Stream'. 

About the inspiration for Being Martha he said: “The poem was initially inspired by a case involving multiple gun shot wounds; the biblical stories of Martha, Mary and Lazarus; sitting in an airport and feeling dissociated from the sound around me; the feeling that all Doctors are basically Martha.”  

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Cheryl Moskowitz is a poet, playwright, novelist and translator. Born in Chicago, she has lived in the UK since she was 11. She writes for adults and children. Previously an actor, she is trained in psychodynamic counselling and dramatherapy and is an external supervisor for Barnet and Enfield Mental Heath Trust Forensic Services. In 2011 she was awarded 2nd prize in the Hippocrates Open Category and had poems commended in both the 2013 and 2014 competitions. Her book publications include novel, Wyoming Trail, Granta (1998), Can it Be About Me? Frances Lincoln (2012) and The Girl is Smiling, Circle Time Press (2012).

About Estimating the Time of Death she said: "Being present at a friend’s death thirteen years ago had a profound effect on me. Deeply upsetting but also a privilege. It has taken me a long time to find a way to write about it. He had been ill for some time and in his final weeks was drifting in and out of consciousness, no longer able to speak. Friends and family kept a constant vigil at his bedside. His mother told me that he'd loved John Donne’s poetry since childhood. It seemed fitting that this was what I was reading to him when he died."   

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Daniel Racey lives on Dartmoor, Devon.  He works as a Child and Adolescent psychiatrist. He is both a poacher and a gamekeeper, having had multiple significant episodes of depression.  He has been a prize winner in poetry competitions, had his poetry published in magazines and this is his second commendation in the Hippocrates Prize.

Reflecting on The Learning of Flies he said: "We need to be talking about suicide as it has become the leading cause of death for  men of my age. I wrote this poem  as a plea from a desperate place.  I live a blessed life, yet the relapse signature of my depression  is to wake at three in the morning with the thought of suicide piercing my head from a seeming nowhere. For me, John Berryman and his  Dream Songs  profoundly articulated this dark gravitational force,  its irrationality and its irresistiblity.  Ultimately, Berryman could not resist the call of suicide. The second part of the poem  was taken from experiencing  patients who had a serenity in the lead up to the completion of suicide which makes  the act so unpredictable. The third part of the poem  deals with how, in these dark corners of the self, I find some solace in nature and that  my own particular experience has been tha​​t each of my ‘breakdowns’ can lead to a ‘breakthrough’ just as maggots  take nourishment from the darkness and by some alchemical transformation make the exuberant flies of summer.  Finally, I think it is important to say that the experience of depression is so disabling but depression is highly treatable.  I have l learnt to  seek help early from others and I am in a very different place now “

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Khadija Rouf is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist in Oxfordshire. She has worked in the NHS for over twenty years, mainly with adults who have serious mental health problems. She has published professionally, contributing to The Oxford Guide to Behavioural Experiments in Cognitive Therapy (OUP), Oxford Cognitive Therapy Centre’s self-help resources and for the British Psychological Society. In 2013, she completed an MA in Poetry with Manchester Metropolitan University, and is published in Orbis, Six Seasons Review, Sarasvati and other journals.

About Care she said: “The NHS was founded on the principles of universal care, spanning from cradle to grave. I wanted that sense of span in the poem. I wanted to convey the current clash of ideologies too. The ethos of the NHS is threatened, as it is privatised and fragmented. The vocabulary of business can translate into a hard, new language, pushing us into impossible positions. This can constrain how care is offered, and at worst, we can stop seeing the common humanity of those we are meant to help.” 


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Karen Patricia Schofield said "My career has been in clinical haematology although I have now retired from the NHS. This gives me time to write poetry and occasionally to supervise Keele University medical students who choose a medicine and poetry humanities option.  I am an active member of the Stoke Stanza group and ‘Keele Poets at Silverdale Library’ and receive support for my writing from both groups."  

She added: "My poetry is often informed by my medical experiences and I like to think of unexpected ways to express the emotions of clinical encounters. I was shortlisted for the Hippocrates prize in 2016 and was awarded a commended place in 2014 and 2016."

She said: "From This Day Forward is based on a memory of a patient with leukaemia who married her long-term partner knowing she had only a few weeks to live. I compared the ups and downs of a relationship with the harsher hopes and despairs of enduring difficult treatments, ending with a final decision to marry. The dream-like ending is an alternative reality and offers a kind of redemption.”


Helen Sheppard

Helen Catherine Sheppard  worked as a neonatal midwife and advocate for young people. Influenced by issues on birth and right to be heard. Co-ordinates Satellite of Love spoken word events and Poet in Residence. Involved in Bristol Festival of Literature, organises children's events. Working on her first collection of poems. Published in the Anthology No Tribal Dance (2017), I Am Not A Silent Poet and Blue of Noon

She said: "Opening - is a recollection of my first delivery as a new midwife. Paying witness under supervision. Each subsequent delivery over the years has increased my wonderment. A symbiotic unity in labour for women, power and passenger to journey together. Leading to this remarkable unwrapping of a new life.”

Joe Tobias is a fourth-year medical student at Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons. Joe was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, educated at Harvard College, the University of Oxford and the Bennington Writing Seminars. In July 2017, he will begin general surgery residency at Oregon Health & Science University.

He said: “I was inspired to write In Chiapas after meeting a barber with a marked disability in a small town in a southern province of Mexico. He tended to me with great care during a time when I needed it: in the midst of my third-year clerkships, when I was experiencing the difficulty of working in a hospital for the first time."


Joanna Watson graduated in medicine from Cambridge University in 1980.  She has worked as a public health doctor in NHS and academic posts in England, with special interests in learning disability and mental health.  Facing reverse culture shock after three years’ voluntary work in Romania shortly after the revolution, Joanna began writing poetry.  She attended creative writing courses at Warwick University and Birmingham University.  Her poems have appeared in medical journals, poetry magazines and anthologies.  Her first collection, Inkblotting, was published by Survivors’ Press in 2010.  Oboist, epidemiologist, patient, Christian, she enjoys words, numbers, classical music, quietude and quirky knitting.

 © Hippocrates initiative 2012: hippocrates.poetry@gmail.com