The intimacy of medicine: winners announced for the 2016 Open and NHS Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine

The judges have announced winning and commended poems in the Open International and NHS categories of the 2016 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine at an awards ceremony in London on Friday 15th April.

The Open International First Prize went to Owen Lewis, a clinical psychiatry professor at Columbia University, New York City  and Visiting Professor at Einstein Medical College. 

About what inspired his winning poem At Tribeca’s Edge, he said: "My students at Columbia, College of Physicians and Surgeons, were the inspiration for this poem. 

"I sometimes teach a section of Foundations of Clinical Medicine, a course that extends over their first three semesters. Coming to the end of our time together, I felt overwhelmed considering all they had yet to learn, hoping they would hold onto their optimism and idealism, and humbled by what I had contributed. The poem is dedicated to them.”

The NHS First Prize went to Denise Bundred from Camberley in England. She trained as a paediatrician in Cape Town and worked as a paediatric cardiologist in Liverpool. 

Chris Woods, Anne Ryland, Denise Bundred, Jane McLaughlin, Karen Schofield and Owen Lewis

About her winning poem she said: "A Cardiologist Seeks Certainty is an attempt to capture the ache of anxiety as I struggled to define a complex problem in the chambers and vessels of a baby’s heart, often with the pressing need for urgent surgery."

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Front row: Owen Lewis and Denise Bundred
Middle row: judges Gareth Powell, Wendy French and Rafael Campo
Back row: organisers Michael Hulse and Donald Singer

The Open Second Prize went to UK poet Anne Ryland from Berwick-on-Tweed and the Open Third Prize went to poet Jane McLaughlin from London. 

The NHS Second Prize went to GP Chris Woods from Bury and the NHS Third Prize to former consultant haematologist Karen Patricia Schofield from Crewe.

Judge Rafael Campo said: "It has been tremendously heartening, in this age of seductive technologies, financial imperatives, and ever more culturally disparate illness experiences, to read so many stunning poems that remain so deeply concerned with healing in the broadest and most fundamental sense."  

He added: "Whether written from the perspective of care providers across many disciplines, or by patients and their loved ones, the poems submitted for the Hippocrates awards are an eloquent and powerful reminder of the the importance of the human imagination in confronting illness.  While medicine may sometimes cure disease, it is poetry, through empathy and a refusal to look away from human suffering, that always heals."

2016 Shortlist

Judge Wendy French said: “Poems inspired by medical topics help us appreciate the humanity of medicine. Evidence for this was amply provided by the range of poems submitted for the 2016 Hippocrates Poetry and Medicine Prizes, with topics drawing on personal experiences as patients, practitioners and observers.”

She added: “Despite their diversity, the quality of the best poems stood out, and the judges were in remarkable agreement about which should be commended or win awards.  It is to be hoped that this important initiative will continue for years to come.”

Judge Rev. Gareth Powell said: “The Hippocrates Prize has attracted a refreshingly vivid collection of poetry that links together human experience, medical precision and the fragility of the human form. In the poems, we glimpse, and are challenged by, something of the intimacy of medicine.  This is all thanks to the skill of the poets in observation and a discerning use of language.”

Now in its 7th year, the short-listed entries for the 2016 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine have been selected from around 1000 entries from 40 countries by judges poet Wendy French, Harvard physician and poet Dr Rafael Campo, and Rev. Gareth Powell, Secretary of the Methodist Church.

With a prize fund of £5500 for winning poems in the Open International category and NHS category, and £500 for the Young Poets Award, the Hippocrates Prize is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single poem. In its first 7 years, the Hippocrates Prize has attracted over 7000 entries from 61 countries, from the Americas to Fiji and Finland to Australasia.

Find out more about the winning poets.

The judges also agreed 16 commendations in the NHS category, and 17 commendations in the Open International category from Australia, France, England, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and the USA.

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Commended poets at the 2016 Hippocrates Awards:
Back row: Catherine Ayres, Wendy Orr, Simon Currie
Middle row: Nicola Jackson, Denise Bundred, Karen Schofield, Sheila Wild
Front Row: Martin Pearce, Tricia Torrington, Helen Gibson, Emma Storr

Find out more about the commended poets.

More about the awards on the Hippocrates Poetry website.

The Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine – 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.

The International Hippocrates Prize is awarded in three categories:
- an Open category, which anyone in the world may enter;
- an NHS category, which is open to UK National Health Service employees, health students and those working in professional organisations involved in education and training of NHS students and staff;
- a Young Poets Award in the international Hippocrates Prize for an unpublished poem in English on a medical theme. Entries for this award are open to young poets from anywhere in the world aged 14 to 18 years.

Notes for editors
For more on the Hippocrates Prize and the 2016 judges, contact 07447 441666 or email

Hippocrates website:

2016 Hippocrates Judges

Rafael Campo
is Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He is the author of eight highly acclaimed books and the recipient of many honors and awards, including a Guggenheim fellowship, an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Amherst College, a National Poetry Series award, and a Lambda Literary Award for his poetry; his third collection of poetry, Diva (Duke University Press, 2000), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and his fourth, Landscape with Human Figure (Duke University Press, 2002), won the Gold Medal from ForeWord for the best book of poetry published by an independent press.

His work has also been selected for inclusion in the Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize anthologies, and has appeared in numerous prominent periodicals including American Poetry Review, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, Poetry,,, Threepenny Review, Washington Post Book World, Yale Review, and elsewhere; he has also been featured on National Public Radio and the National Endowment for the Arts website. 

He has lectured widely, with recent appearances at such venues as the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Library of Congress, and the 92nd Street Y in New York. His fifth book of poetry, The Enemy, was awarded the Sheila Motton Book Prize for the best collection of poetry published in 2007 by the New England Poetry Club, the nation’s oldest poetry organization. In 2009, he received the Nicholas E. Davies Memorial Scholar Award from the American College of Physicians, for outstanding humanism in medicine. 

He has also won the 2013 Hippocrates Open International Prize, one of the highest value awards for a single poem in the world, for original verse that addresses a medical theme. His newest collection of poems, Alternative Medicine, was the subject of feature stories on PBS NewsHour and the CBC’s Sunday Edition radio show. See more information at
Wendy French won the inaugural 2010 Hippocrates Poetry and Medicine prize for the NHS section in 2010 and was awarded second prize in 2011. She has two chapbooks and two collections of poetry published, Splintering the Dark, Rockingham press 2005, and surely you know this (the title was taken from a Sappho fragment) Tall lighthouse press 2009. Her collaboration with Jane Kirwan resulted in the book Born in the NHS which was published 2013 by Hippocrates press. She has worked for the past twenty years with children and adults with mental health problems and was head of the Maudsley and Bethlem Hospital School. She left this post to concentrate on working with people with aphasia/dysphasia helping them to recover their use of language through poetry. She was Poet in Residence at the Macmillan Centre UCLH from April 2014-2015.
Rev. Gareth Powell was appointed in September 2015 as Secretary of the Methodist Conference, one of the most senior positions of Church leadership in Methodism. He read theology at Westminster College, Oxford then undertook ministerial training at The Queen's College, Birmingham, obtaining an MA in Pastoral Theology before spending time at Graduate School at the University of Geneva. He as served in Coventry and Cardiff, where he was university chaplain. Since 2010 he has been a member of the Council of Cardiff University.

Hippocrates Prize Organisers

Professor Donald Singer is a clinical pharmacologist and President of the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine. His interests include research on discovery of new therapies, and public understanding of drugs, health and disease. 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 2016 Hippocrates Prize is supported by the Healthy Heart Charity the Cardiovascular Research Trust, founded in 1996, which promotes research and education for the prevention and treatment of disorders of the heart and circulation.

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