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Monday, 14 December 2015

2016 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine launch at UCH MacMillan Cancer Centre in London

hippocrates_prize_logo_medThe Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine was launched at the MacMillan Cancer Centre at University College Hospital in London.

Entries for the 2016 Hippocrates Prize International and NHS awards close at

Deadline: End of the day on 1st February 2016 

If you wish to take part or to let poet friends know about the awards there is still just time: entries for the 2016 Hippocrates Prize International and NHS awards close at the end of the day (midnight in your local time zone) on 1st February 2016. The deadline has been extended for 24 hours in view of technical difficulties with online submission on some platforms. 
Entries for the 2016 Hippocrates Young Poets international prize for Poetry and Medicine close at 12 midnight GMT on the 29th February, 2016.  
There have already been entries for the 2016 awards from 37 countries and territories from throughout the UK and overseas, from Australia to Zambia.

The Hippocrates Prize is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world with a £5000 first prize both for its Open International and for its NHS Awards.  

There is also a £500 prize for the best poem on a medical theme in the Hippocrates Prize for Young Poets.

All awards are for a single unpublished poem on a medical theme. 

Awards will be presented at a ceremony in April 2016 in London.
2016 Hippocrates Prize judge Wendy French recently completed a year as poet in residence, working with adult and young patients attending the MacMillan Cancer Centre.

Click here to find out more about or to enter for the 2016 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine.

Winning and commended poems are published in the annual Hippocrates Prize Anthology.
Click here to order an Anthology of previous winning poems in the Hippocrates Prize.

2016 Hippocrates Prize Launch at the MacMillan Cancer Centre
Poet Wendy French, Harvard physician and poet Rafael Campo, and Gareth Powell, Secretary of the Methodist Church, will judge the 2016 Hippocrates Prize for poetry and medicine international and UK NHS awards. The judges are joined by poet Siân Hughes, who will select the winner of the Hippocrates Young Poet Award for poetry and medicine

Hippocrates Prize organiser and Clinical Pharmacologist Donald Singer said: "Providing psychological support is an important aspect of the new NHS guidelines for end-of-life care. Engaging with health through poetry can provide valuable support for patients and their families."

He added “We are delighted to have such a distinguished panel of judges for the 2016 Hippocrates Prize, which has since its launch attracted interest from over 60 countries."

Poet and Hippocrates judge Wendy French said: "My experience as poet in residence at the MacMillan Cancer Centre shows how patients undergoing palliative care can find helpful support from engaging in poetry. We are very grateful that the MacMillan Cancer Centre has agreed to host the launch of the 2016 Hippocrates.”

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:

Campo headshot color
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

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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.

conf-gareth-powell-0515Gareth 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.
Sian Hughes 

Siân Hughes' first collection "The Missing" (Salt, 2009) was long-listed for Guardian first book of the year, and won the Seamus Heaney prize for a first collection.  Her sequence of poems about her mother's breast cancer won second prize in the first Hippocrates awards, and she and her mother Eleanor Cooke continue to write a shared book about this illness as treatments continue today.   In 1998 she set up the Young National Poetry Competition when she was working for The Poetry Society and she continues to promote young writers and to work with the National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth to support the teaching of creative writing. Sian has been poet in residence in Youth and Community Centres, a Youth Theatre, a Health Centre, and is currently poet in residence in a Birmingham school when she is not teaching part time for Oxford University, working in a café or looking after her family.

The UCH MacMillan Cancer Centre
Macmillan and the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) have combined their expertise to build the UK’s most advanced cancer facility. The UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre supports the growing number of Londoners living with cancer. Over 27,000 people in London are currently living with cancer, and the number is growing. The UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre is the first of its kind in the NHS. It redefines the way cancer patients are treated, using the best diagnostic and treatment techniques to improve survival rates.  At its heart is the Macmillan Support and Information Service. A team of skilled Macmillan health professionals and volunteers, from benefits advisors to counsellors and complementary therapists, bringing the highest quality medical, emotional, practical and financial support.

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 Hippocrates initiative has been supported by many organisations. These include the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, a national medical society founded in 1918 and publisher of the Postgraduate Medical Journal and Health Policy and Technology;
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; the Wellcome Trust, the National Association of Writers in Education, the University of Warwick, and many other health professional, literary and cultural organisations.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Coull Quartet evening raises funds for children's cancer charity CLIC Sargent

The Coull Quartet performed classical works by Haydn and Debussy on 15th September 2015 in support of CLIC Sargent. The musical evening was organised by the Worsted Weavers Guild of Coventry, its second in a series of annual charitable music events. 
Coull Quartet evening raises over £1,500 The Coull Quartet, this year celebrating its 40th anniversary, has performed worldwide, including in China, Brazil, Germany and Poland.

CLIC Sargent Fundraising Manager Lydia Buckmaster said: “The Worsted Weavers Guild put together a wonderful evening and the Coull Quartet played beautifully.

"Everyone in attendance was generous, helping the event to raise a fantastic £1,578 to support children and young people with cancer.”

Outstanding musical evening
Concert organiser Donald Singer said: “The Worsted Weavers Guild of Coventry decided to support CLIC Sargent because of its excellent  clinical and practical work, work, both nationally and locally, to help the whole family deal with the impact of cancer and its treatment on children and young people.

“Our guest musicians – the Coull Quartet – provided an outstanding musical evening in the beautiful historic setting of Packington Hall, which was made available through the generosity of the Earl of Aylesford.

“We are very grateful to all those who supported the charity concert, by coming to the event or through donations to CLIC Sargent, having heard about its excellent work through our activities.

“We look forward to our third charity concert, to be held in the summer of 2016, once again in support of CLIC Sargent.”

Find out more
To find out you or your company could help support CLIC Sargent, please contact CLIC Sargent Fundraising Manager Lydia Buckmaster on 01509 673 881 or email

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Keats-Shelley house by the Spanish Steps in Rome

Keats spent his last months in Rome, before succumbing in February 1821 at the age of 25 to consumption - tuberculosis. He had earlier nursed his brother Tom until the latter's demise from consumption at the age of 19. Keats had trained as an apothecary and had studied medicine at St Thomas' Hospital: surviving records mention treatment given by a "Mr Keats".

As a remarkable example of individual differences in susceptibility to the disease, the artist
Photo © Donald Singer: Keats-Shelley House and Spanish Steps, Rome
Joseph Severn survived until the age of 85, despite living with Keats for 3 months in Rome and nursing Keats' during this final illness. Severn painted Keats on his deathbed.

Shelley travelled to Rome after Keats' death and wrote the poem Adonaïs: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats. Whether for effect or real belief, Shelley is reported to have attributed the major cause of this final illness to bleeding from ruptured lungs in response to poor critical reception of Keats' poetry. Keats was more sanguine. He was confident in future recognition, writing to his brother George in 1819: "
‘I have no doubt of success in a course of years if I persevere ..."

The Vatican authorities were pragmatic,  aware in 1821 of consumption as a potentially transmissable disease. They gave instructions that all contents of Keats' rooms at Piazza di Spagna were to be removed and destroyed by burning - including his boat bed and the wallpaper.  

This was in the tradition of the germ theory of disease, which dated at least from Varro in 36BC, to microscope inventor Van Leeuwenhoek’s reports in the 17th Century, with firm evidence reported later in the 19th Century by Semmelweiss in Vienna, Koch in Berlin and Pasteur in Paris. 

Robert Koch was the first to describe the causative tubercle bacillus, supported by his formulation of postulates about evidence to confirm disease causation. Koch's investigations and discoveries in relation to tuberculosis lead to his receipt of the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. 

Read further historical notes about tuberculosis

The Tempest and Prospero's curse : magic, pleurisy, and other thoughts

Tuberculosis, Bel Ami and the Belle Epoque

More on the Keats-Shelley House: 26 Piazza de Spagna in Rome



Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Father - remarkable play portraying decline into dementia

In recent decades, Alzheimer’s disease has become an epidemic cause of dementia, typically now affecting increasingly older patients than in the initial encounter in 1901 between German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer and a 51 year old woman suffering from progressive short-term memory loss. In 1906, he was the first  to relate the finding of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain to clinical symptoms of pre-senile dementia, abnormalities which are still the focus of research into causes, biomarkers and clues to treatment of this currently inexorable dementia syndrome.
Although families and health and community care services around the world are increasingly pressed by the condition, it is only recently that Alzheimer’s disease and other common causes of decline into dementia, such as vascular disorders of the brain, have been portrayed to public audiences in print and on the screen, for example in Iris, Amour, Still Alice, and The Iron Lady. 
A new remarkable addition on this theme is 2014 Molière award winning The Father (Le Père), by 35 year old French playwright Florian Zeller, now on stage in the West End in a translation by Christopher Hampton: moving, faithful to the condition and its wider consequences, and well acted by an outstanding cast led by Kenneth
Cranham and Claire Skinner. The play was first produced in France in 2012 at the Théâtre Hébertot in Paris and is due for transfer to Broadway in March 2016.
Important not to say too much so as not to spoil the impact on a future audience of the many themes of the play and the dramatic effects used by the writers, scene designers and musical director. Zeller is very effective, with a surprising amount of humour, in involving the audience directly in the confusing experiences of the failing protagonist Andre, his family and carers, and in the natural history of the condition. He is also excellent at describing interactions between the relative with dementia and relatives who take on the caring role, as well as possible attitudes and the behaviour of a carer’s partner.
The programme notes – and interviews in the French and English press – give little away on Zeller’s inspiration for the themes of the play. In interview, the translator Hampton – around twice Zeller’s age – alludes to universal concerns about the significance of senior moments, such as forgetting a name, as hints of the possibility of much worse to come. The programme notes also provide beautiful colour scans of the brain in health and in patients with dementia. The images are left to the reader to interpret. However little effort is needed to decipher the dramatic general and local effects of dementia shown in the images.

Public domain image from the Center For Functional Imaging, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI)

The Father merits adapting for film as soon as possible, so that the play can be seen as widely as possible by all health professionals dealing with patients with dementia, their family and carers. Despite the many poignant facets of The Father, it will also be appreciated by the increasing many with direct experience of a family member or friend with the syndrome.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

120th Anniversary of Freud's studies on hysteria

To mark the 120th anniversary of Sigmund Freud's first book - Studies on Hysteria - academic
Freud Museum, Hampstead - London
psychiatrist Dr Tim Nicholson held a public understanding event 
at the Freud museum, Freud's old London house in Hampstead. The book both launched Freud's career and the field of psychoanalysis. 

Hysteria, the subject of Dr Nicholson's research, is now known as a conversion disorder or a functional neurological disorder. Although both common and severe, hysteria remains highly stigmatised and widely misunderstood. 

You can find out more about Freud's role in hysteria and subsequent developments by viewing a trio of YouTube videos from the event:
- a talk explaining what hysteria is
- a talk on what Freud discussed in his book 'Studies on Hysteria' 
- a debate on the subject by a panel of world experts discussing  whether the book is still relevant today

Monday, 5 October 2015

Coffee and herbal ‘cigarettes’ once popular treatments for asthma: talks from PMJ 90th Anniversary

Condition used to be regarded as psychosomatic and brought on by stress

Strong black coffee and herbal ‘cigarettes’ were once popular treatments for asthma, which used to
be thought of as a psychosomatic condition, brought on by stress, reveals a review of the evolution of common respiratory diseases over the past century.

The review, presented by Peter Barnes, Professor of Thoracic Medicine and Head of Respiratory Medicine at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, is one of a series of historical perspectives on key aspects of health and medicine, and their relevance to future practice, delivered by distinguished clinicians at a symposium in London today for the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine (FPM).*

See programme and speaker abstracts and biographies

The lectures mark the 90th anniversary of Postgraduate Medical Journal, which began publishing in 1925, the year television pictures were first transmitted by Logie Baird and enclosed double decker buses were introduced to London’s streets.

In ancient times, asthma used to be treated with various herbal extracts, derived from horsetail, thorn-apple, and deadly nightshade (belladonna), and available as a tincture or in “asthma cigarettes.”

By the 1850s the use of strong black coffee was recommended to treat symptoms, and by the early 20th century adrenal gland extract, from which adrenaline is derived, emerged as an effective airway opener (bronchodilator) followed by the discovery in the 1920s that theophylline, which occurs naturally in tea, was similarly effective.

The adrenal gland was a source of another treatment for asthma—steroids, the precursor to the mainstay of treatment today. Glucorticosteroids were first extracted in the 1940s, when adrenaline also became available as an inhaled treatment for the first time.

During this period in history, asthma was thought of as a largely psychosomatic condition, brought on by stress. It wasn’t until the 1980s, when chronic inflammation was recognised as a key factor in the airway restriction that characterises the condition.

In 1925 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and bronchitis, were treated with the same bronchodilators used for asthma. Now long acting bronchodilators and their combination are the treatments of choice, although they don’t work as well in COPD as they do in asthma.

But oxygen was considered to be dangerous and only became available in the 1980s. New treatments for COPD that dampen down the underlying inflammation are urgently needed but have proved difficult to develop.

In another presentation, looking towards the future, Professor Karol Sikora, Medical Director of CancerPartnersUK, points out that cancer could well become a long term condition in 20 years’ time. But this promise critically depends on sustained investment in innovative diagnostics and therapies, such as robotics, genomics, biosensors, and personalised medicine.

He suggests that as the population continues to age, and the prevalence of cancer rises, the interaction of four factors will determine the future success of curbing deaths from the disease: new technology; society's willingness to pay; evolving healthcare delivery systems; and the financial mechanisms that underpin them.

Other speakers include Professor Dame Carol Black, principal of Newnham College Cambridge and past president of the Royal College of Physicians, who will talk about the opportunities to improve public health by focusing on workplace health; Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, David Weatherall Chair in Medicine at the University of Liverpool who will outline progress in the use of personalised medicine; and Dr Paul Nunn, former Coordinator, WHO Tuberculosis Programme, who will cover  the epidemiology and treatment of TB.

Details of all the other speakers and the topics they will be covering are available here:

Commenting on the relevance and significance of the symposium, FPM President, Professor Donald Singer said: “Today’s symposium showcases many of the tremendous advances in medicine over the past 9 decades. Yet many of the medical challenges present in the 1920s still need further research and more global investment in health systems in developed and less developed regions. “

He added “The Postgraduate Medical Journal continues to play an important role in publishing new medical research and in educating young doctors and their teachers around the world.”

Notes for editors:
*90th Anniversary of the Postgraduate Medical Journal: Medicine from 1925 to 2015 One Day Symposium - 1st October 2015, Medical Society of London

Postgraduate Medical Journal is one of more than 50 specialist journals published by BMJ, which publishes the title on behalf of the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine.

The Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, founded in 1918, pioneered educational programmes in all branches of postgraduate medicine. The FPM publishes 2 international journals: the Postgraduate Medical Journal since 1925 and Health Policy and Technology since 2012.

Further information (including contact details for the speakers)
Emma Dickinson, Media Relations Manager, BMJ, BMA House, London, UK
Tel: + 44 (0) 207 383 6529

Monday, 24 August 2015

Coull Quartet concert for children’s cancer charity CLIC-Sargent: 15th September, Packington Hall

The internationally renowned Coull Quartet are to perform works by Haydn and Debussy on Tuesday 15th September, 2015 in support of the children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent at the second in a series of annual charity musical evenings organised by the Worsted Weavers Guild. The concert on 15th September 2015 will be in the Pompeiian Hall at Packington Hall in Warwickshire (~ 20 minutes north of Kenilworth).  Packington Hall is an 18th-century Grade II* listed mansion set in 300 acres of parkland designed by Capability Brown and situated within a remnant of the original Forest of Arden. Use of the Pompeiian Hall is by kind permission of Lord Aylesford. The Hall is not normally open to the public. 

Order tickets for concert and reception

The  children’s cancer charity  CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, and their families.  CLIC Sargent provides clinical, practical, financial and emotional support to help them cope with cancer and get the most out of life. CLIC Sargent aims to help the whole family deal with the impact of cancer and its treatment. CLIC  Sargent is active nationally, and locally in the Warwickshire and Coventry area. 
Detail: Pompeiian Room

Pompeiian Room

The performance will be followed by a reception on Packington Hall Terrace with wine/soft drinks and canapés. TIckets for the concert and the reception are £35 per person.

Map of Packington Hall


6.30 pm Packington Hall – arrival 

7 pm Coull Quartet – performance in the Pompeiian Hall
Haydn Op. 74 No.2 in F Major
Debussy Quartet Op.10 in G minor

8 pm   Reception: wine and canapés

9 pm Close

THE COULL QUARTET are Roger Coull violin, Philip Gallaway violin, Jonathan Barritt viola and Nicholas Roberts cello.

‘…the magnificent, seasoned ensemble of the Coull’. (The Strad)
This year the Coull Quartet celebrates its 40th anniversary. Formed in 1974 by students at the Royal Academy of Music under the guidance of renowned quartet leader, Sidney Griller, they rapidly achieved national recognition, and were appointed Quartet-in-Residence by the University of Warwick in 1977, a post which they still hold today.

The Quartet, which includes two of its founder members, has performed and broadcast extensively throughout the UK, and has made tours of Western Europe, the Americas, Australia, China, India and the Far East. Since the mid-1980s the Coull Quartet has made over 30 recordings featuring a wide selection of the repertoire closest to their hearts, from the complete Mendelssohn and Schubert quartets to 20th century and contemporary British chamber music.

Their CD of quartets by Maw and Britten on the Somm label has received universal acclaim; in addition to being featured in ‘Editor’s Choice’ in The Gramophone, it was also described as the ‘Benchmark Recording’ by BBC Music Magazine. Their recordings of music by Sibelius and Ian Venables have also received excellent reviews in the major musical publications. Their impressive and unusual list of commissions includes works by Sally Beamish, Edward Cowie, Joe Cutler, David Matthews, Nicholas Maw, and Robert Simpson.

These include string quartets, quintets with piano or wind player, works with solo voice or choir, and even a piece for quartet and table tennis players! The rare combination of maturity and freshness which characterises the Quartet’s performances is often singled out by reviewers: “Here the playing is so brimful with enthusiasm and commitment, and at the same time so infused with the accumulated wisdom of three decades, that the music simply reinvents itself as it should”.  (The Strad)

Worsted Weavers’ Guild of Coventry 
The history of merchant guilds in Coventry goes back at least to 1267. The original roles of the guilds included providing training for their professions and ensuring the quality of what was produced. The National Archives record a Company of Worsted Weavers, Coventry, from circa 1448; and a Company and Fellowship of Worsted Weavers and Silk Weavers, City of Coventry, from 1628. In 1703 the worsted weavers of Coventry, whose trade had then lately improved, were separated from the silk weavers to form their own company as a member of the guilds of the city. In modern times the Worsted Weavers and other guilds of the city continue in a charitable role.