Psychotherapist Mary V Williams wins Hippocrates NHS Prize for Poetry and Medicine

The £5000 2013 Hippocrates NHS first prize has beed awarded to poet and novelist Mary V Williams from Shropshire, who trained in psychotherapy.

The second prize went to former nurse Ann Elisabeth Gray who runs a care home Cornwall and the third prize was shared by family doctor Ann Lilian Jay from LLandysul in Wales, hospital chaplain Ian McDowell from London, and senior lecturer in midwifery Bella Madden from Milton Keynes.

See links for more on Hippocrates Open Awards and Young Poets Awards

Harvard poet and physician Rafael Campo wins Hippocrates Open International Prize for Poetry and Medicine
Psychotherapist Mary V Williams wins Hippocrates NHS Prize for Poetry and Medicine
English poet Rosalind Jana awarded international Hippocrates Young Poets Prize for Poetry and Medicine 

2013 r-mary-williams med-2

NHS winner Mary V Williams ©Hippocrates Prize

Mary Williams said “My poem ‘Downs’ was inspired by my working in a pre-school nursery for special needs children, by their need for love and acceptance, and their ability to give back so much in return”.

The Hippocrates Prize is one of the most valuable poetry prizes in the world, with a yearly purse of £15000.

The winners were announced at an International Symposium on Poetry and Medicine at the Wellcome Rooms in London on Saturday 18th May by the judges, poet Jo Shapcott, medical writer and psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple and Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum Grooup.

The judges also agreed 18 commendations in the NHS category - one each from Scotland and Wales and 16 from England.

2013 nhs-wiunners-2 med

Hippocrates NHS Award winners, commended poets and judges. ©Hippocrates Prize

Judge Jo Shapcott said: 'The Hippocrates Prize, since its inception in 2009, has quickly established itself as one of the most important international prizes for poetry as well as providing a unique place for poetry and medicine to meet.  Its international reach is reflected in this years prizewinners who come from countries all round the globe, including New Zealand, the USA, Ireland, and Israel.“ 

She added: “You might imagine that poetry on medical themes would be sad, even grim reading, but far from it.  There was a lively range of subjects and perspectives in this year's batch, and the judges were lucky enough to be debating the merits of some outstanding poems which have in common their sheer brio, skill, and passion, and often an exhilarating deftness in deploying medical language so that it sings.”

Judge Roger Highfield commented 'The Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine works brilliantly because medicine is where science collides with life. Again and again I found myself transported in mind and spirit to unfamiliar situations where I encountered the memories, experiences and inner emotional worlds of others. I found it enthralling and, at times, disturbing, a powerful reminder of the mysterious way that a few words can herd our thoughts and emotions.'

Judge Theodore Dalrymple remarked “As the Hippocrates Prize once again demonstrates, health care is a fertile source of poetic inspiration. All the poems arise from the need to communicate a deep human experience, and succeed in doing so.”

Donald Singer, Hippocrates Prize co-founder and President of the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, the major patron of the Hippocrates Initiative said "The FPM is delighted with the increasing success of the Hippocrates NHS Awards for Poetry and Medicine in reaching out to health professionals and the public.

'This year's winner Mary V Williams, using deceptively simple language, gives a wonderful example of how poetry can take the health professional beyond the complexity of clinical syndromes into engaging in the humanity of caring for patients as people".

Hippocrates Prize co-founder poet Michael Hulse added: “We are delighted with the extraordinary impact the Hippocrates NHS Prize continues to achieve throughout the UK in inspiring and engaging health professionals and health students in the interface between their work and personal life, poetry and medicine.”

The awards symposium considered themes including poetry as therapy to help in recovery from stroke, poetry in health professional training, the impact of illness on the poet, and the history of poetry and medicine.

Speakers for the awards symposium came from the USA, UK, Spain and Switzerland. 

The Hippocrates Initiative – winner of the 2011 Times Higher Education Award for Innovation and Excellence in the Arts – is an interdisciplinary venture that investigates the synergy between medicine, the arts, and health.

To attend the Symposium see

Notes to editors Acknowledge the Hippocrates Prize when reproducing photos. Photos of the finalists, along with biographies and extracts of their poems are available on request. 

For contacts from editors, please email 

Awards: In each category there is a 1st prize of £5,000, 2nd prize £1,000, 3rd prize of £500, and further commendations each of £50.  

The Hippocrates Prize judges

Jo Shapcott was born in London. Poems from her three award-winning collections, Electroplating the Baby (1988), Phrase Book (1992) and My Life Asleep (1998) are gathered in a selected poems, Her Book (2000). She has won a number of literary prizes including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Collection, the Forward Prize for Best Collection and the National Poetry Competition (twice). Tender Taxes, her versions of Rilke, was published in 2001. Her most recent collection, Of Mutability, was published in 2010 and won the 2011 Costa Book Award. She was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in December 2011.   Jo Shapcott teaches creative writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Theodore Dalrymple is the pen name for Dr Anthony Daniels, who has worked as a doctor in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Gilbert Islands, London and Birmingham, most recently as a psychiatrist and prison doctor. His writing has appeared regularly in the press and in medical publications, including the British Medical Journal, the Times, Telegraph, Observer and the Spectator and he has published around 20 books, most recently The Pleasure of Thinking.

Roger Highfield is the Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum Group. He was born in Wales, raised in north London and became the first person to bounce a neutron off a soap bubble. He was the Science Editor of The Daily Telegraph for two decades and the Editor of New Scientist between 2008 and 2011.

More on the winning poets and their poems

Ann Gray has an MA in Creative writing from the University of Plymouth. Her collections include At The Gate (Headland, 2008), The Man I Was Promised (Headland, 2004), and Painting Skin (Fatchance Press, 1995)   Her poems have been selected for the Forward Prize Anthology in 1995 and 2008, and commended for the National Poetry Competition, 2010.  Trained as a Registered Nurse at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. She now lives and works in Cornwall where she has a care home for people with dementia, in a 3 acre setting of therapeutic gardens and orchards.

Ann Gray

Hippocrates NHS Award 2nd Prize winner Ann Gray

Ann Gray said "The inspiration for Birds, exactly as the poem states, was finding a paper bird at my feet when walking along Sydney Street in London recently. It took me back to the time I worked on Kenton Ward at Barts, my second ward, I would have been 19. Barts specialised in the treatment of retinoblastoma and many of the children on the ward would have had this condition. I was asked to mind an older child and found making paper birds distracted him from the pain and boredom of being cooped up in a hospital bed all day. 

"The only paper available was the rather stiff yellow x-ray paper, but it made very fine huge birds. We filled his side room with them. Everything about the hospital is as I remember it. I still have the occasional nightmare about pushing beds along the basement inter-connecting corridors. We had huge responsibilty, with a peripetetic night sister who visited twice a night for a report. She had to wear an outdoor cloak as Barts had an open square she would have crossed to get to the children's wards."

Ann Jay has an MA in Medical Humanities from the University of Swansea. After a brief flirtation with Paediatrics she found her spiritual home in General Practice, initially in Sheffield where she qualified, and then in West Wales where home visits involve getting lost in country lanes and occasional glimpses of the sea. Since retiring in 2010 she has been indulging a lifelong love of writing. She is close to finishing a novel for children and is interested in writing poetry that mines the interface between working as a doctor in the NHS and being a patient of the same much loved institution.

Ann Jay

Hippocrates NHS Award 3rd Prize winner Ann Jay

About the inspiration for her poem Biopsy, Ann Jay said "The poem arises directly out of my own experience of breast cancer which was diagnosed in 1997. I had a lumpectomy locally and was then referred to the Royal Marsden. Prior to my first visit I was asked if I ‘minded’ taking my pathological specimen along with me.  When I was given the slide I was startled by my reaction to it which was a mixture of detachment and wonder. I held in my hand a bit of a tumour that might cause my early death but found myself admiring its colours and delicacy. Over the intervening years I have sometimes returned to this image in my mind and tried to write about it.  Only recently did all these efforts crystallise into this poem."

Bella Madden has been a senior lecturer in Midwifery at the University of Bedfordshire, England, since 1999. She is interested in using poetry, drama and the arts in the education of student midwives as an aid to personal and professional reflection and development. She writes, and has on occasion performed, her own poetry. Bella has three children, is recently married, and lives in Milton Keynes.

bella madden R

Hippocrates NHS Award 3rd Prize winner Bella Madden

Bella Madden said "My poem The New Man was written during my first partner’s illness, and was inspired by the change serious illness can bring in people and relationships."

Ian McDowell read English at Christ’s College Cambridge before working as a hospital chaplain in East London. Emergency Call is reflection of his experiences in that role. He now works with patients, doctors and nurses across London to improve patient experience. Ian McDowell is a Fellow of the Centre for Science and Policy at Cambridge University and studies at the Poetry Society with Jane Duran.  

Ian McDowell

Hippocrates NHS Award 3rd Prize winner Ian McDowell

Ian McDowell said "In my poem Emergency Call the old universals - love, loss, and longing – thrash against bleached-out modernity, and somehow hold their own. The poem was inspired by years of chaplaincy work in East London Emergency Rooms."

Mary V Williams is a writer and poet living in Shropshire. After a mis-spent but exciting youth, she trained in psychotherapy, working in Mental Health and allied fields most of her life, having failed to keep order as a teacher and bored by banking, her first career choices. She gained a late MA and was then commissioned to write two self -help books for SPCK, and has since published three fiction novels and poetry. She has also been a foster parent, market trader and bookseller. She is a member of several writers' groups in her area, including Keele Poets at Silverdale.

r Mary Williams

Hippocrates NHS Award 1st Prize winner Mary V Williams

Mary Williams said "My poem Downs was inspired by my working in a pre-school nursery for special needs chidren, and by their need for love and acceptance, and their ability to give back so much in retun. They often moved me to tears."

2013 Hippocrates Prize is supported by the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, a national medical society founded in 1918 and publisher of the Postgraduate Medical Journal and Health Policy and Technology, has been a major supporter of the Hippocrates Prize since its launch in 2009.

The Cardiovascular Research Trust, a charity founded in 1996, which promotes research and education for the prevention and treatment of disorders of the heart and circulation. 

The National Association of Writers in Education supported the prize for the Young Poets category in the Hippocrates Awards.

Hippocrates Prize founders

Donald Singer is Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Warwick, and President of the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, the main patron of the Hippocrates Prize. His interests include research on discovery of new therapies, and public understanding of drugs, health and disease. 

He co-edits Pocket Prescriber, the 6th edition of which is published by Taylor & Francis this June, with a new Pocket Prescriber for Emergency Medicine due this summer.

Michael Hulse is a poet and translator of German literature, and teaches creative writing and comparative literature at the University of Warwick. He is also editor of The Warwick Review.

His latest publications are: The Secret History (poems, Arc) and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (translation of Rilke's novel, Penguin Classics). With Donald Singer he co-founded in 2009 the International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine.


onion © Hippocrates initiative 2012: