Scots poets commended by Hippocrates Prize for poems independently inspired by Edinburgh's Royal College of Surgeons

Two Scots poets have been commended by the Hippocrates Prize for poems inspired by Edinburgh Royal College of Surgeons. 

Aileen Ballantyne’s poem Clostridium Tetani was inspired by the Scottish surgeon Sir Charles Bell’s 1809 painting in the Royal College of Surgeons' collection in Edinburgh of a patient with severe muscle spasms from tetanus [Opisthotonus] 

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Aileen is a journalist turned poet. She is a former Medical Correspondent for the Guardian and The Sunday Times, and is now a tutor in English and Scottish Literature at the University of Edinburgh, with a PhD in Creative Writing and Modern Poetry from the University. 

She was a Reuters Journalism Fellow studying medical ethics at Green College, Oxford. Her investigative journalism has been commended in the British Press Awards, and her work on AIDS and the treatment of premature babies commended in the Scottish Press Awards. 

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Jane Bonnyman wrote her poem Surgeons’ Hall because she said Surgeons’ Hall Museum in Edinburgh has always fascinated her. She said "I am very squeamish by nature, but still find myself drawn to these often gruesome forms and objects. Death masks also intrigue and disturb, bridging the gap between now and then, life and inexorable stillness.”  

Jane is an English teacher and tutor based in Edinburgh. She writes teaching resources for the Scottish Poetry Library and the BBC, and has been published in New Writing Scotland, Gutter and Poetry Scotland. In 2013 she won the National Gallery of Scotland Writing Competition.

The winner of the 2015 NHS Hippocrates Prize for poetry and Medicine will be announced at an Awards Ceremony in London at the close of an International Symposium on Poetry and Medicine at the Medical Society of London on Friday May 22nd.

Competing for the UK NHS 2015 Hippocrates £5000 first prize are former counsellor Kate Compston, GP Ann Lilian Jay, tutor Carole Bromley and radiologist Rowena Warwick.

Poets from New York and the UK are competing for this year’s Hippocrates Open Prize for Poetry and Medicine.  Short-listed in the Open Category are teacher and writer Maya Popa from New York, and poets Pascale Petit and Catherine Ayres who live in the UK. 

Four poets have been shortlisted for the £500 2015 Hippocrates Young Poet PrizeDaniella Cugini from Warwick in England for the surgeon dissects his lover, and US poets Alex Greenberg from New York City for Dusting, Alexandra Spensley from Avon Lake, Ohio for Geography of a bone and Parisa Thepmankorn from Rockaway, New Jersey for Intraocular Pressure

The winners will be announced by judges Femi Oyebode, Rebecca Goss and Rae.

The judges agreed 13 commendations in the NHS category and 18 commendations in the Open category.

At £5000 first prize both in the NHS category and the Open category,and £500 for the Young Poets Prize, this is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single poem. 

Register for the Awards Ceremony from 3.30 pm - 6.15 pm on Friday 22nd May, at the Medical Society of London,11 Chandos Street, London W1G 9EB. 

Now in its 5th year, the short-listed entries for the 2015 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine have been selected from around 1000 entries, from 31 countries by judges poet Rebecca Goss, poet Simon Rae, psychiatrist Professor Femi Oyebode and doctor and writer Theodore Dalrymple.

Judge Rebecca Goss said: “The subject of medicine is sprawling and complex, but poetry is the perfect medium to explore it closely and aid our understanding of human experience at its most raw. A variety of voices make up the winning and commended entries in this year’s Hippocrates Prize. Experiences of both medic and patient are explored, but so too, are the insights of the bystander. Included in this list are the carers, the relatives, the friends, revealing the impact illness also has on their lives."

Judge Professor Femi Oyebode said “I feel very privileged to be involved in the Hippocrates poetry prize. This experience has been most humbling.”

He added: “The wondrous thing is to imagine that these are poems written by healthcare workers who, in their everyday work, deploy their technical expertise with emotional commitment and compassion, all over the world, in a variety of settings in order to care for people; and yet, in-between times, having observed the most extraordinary human situations of trauma, tragedy, hope, despair, death and suffering, find the words to communicate these with sensitivity, with original and unique images, and sometimes with humor.” 

Judge Theodore Dalrymple remarked: “Once again, the Hippocrates Prize has stimulated poets and health workers around the word to put their experiences of hope, despair, sadness, and compassion into poetic form, with impressive success.”

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.

Notes to editors: 
Photos of all finalists, along with biographies and extracts of their poems are available on request. Contact 07447 441666 or

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

The 2015 Hippocrates Anthology of winning and commended poems will be launched at an Awards Ceremony in London on Friday 22nd May. 

The Hippocrates Prize judges

Rebecca Goss grew up in Suffolk. She returned to live in the county in 2013, after living in Liverpool for twenty years. Her first collection The Anatomy of Structures was published by Flambard Press in 2010. Her second collection, Her Birth (Carcanet/Northern House), was shortlisted for The 2013 Forward Prize for Best Collection and winner of the Poetry Category in The 2013 East Anglian Book Awards. In 2014 she was selected for The Poetry Book Society's Next Generation Poets. 

Femi Oyebode is Professor of Psychiatry University of Birmingham & Consultant  Psychiatrist National Centre for Mental Health Birmingham. His research interests include clinical psychopathology and medical humanities. His publications include Sims’ Symptoms in the Mind: textbook of descriptive psychopathology 5th edition (translated into Italian, Portuguese and Estonian); Mindreadings: literature and psychiatry; & Madness at the Theatre

He is a poet and his published works include Naked to your softness and other dreamsForest of transformationsMaster of the leopard huntIndigo, camwood and mahogany red; & Femi Oyebode: Selected poems (edited O. Okome). For a critical review of his poetry see Home and exile in Femi Oyebode’s poetry (edited Obododimma Oha).

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 Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality (2015).

Hippocrates Prize Organisers Professor Donald Singer is President of the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine. His interests include research on discovery of new therapies, and public understanding of drugs, health and disease. He co-authors Pocket Prescriber, the 8th edition of which is published by Taylor & Francis in the summer of 2015. Professor 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 book of poems, Half-Life (2013), was named a Book of the Year by John Kinsella.

The 2015 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 supported 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.

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