Cherishing life and health: the 2017 Hippocrates Awards for poetry and medicine

Poets from Ireland, the UK, the USA, Australia and Canada are among the winners of major awards in this year’s £6,000 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, announced at an awards ceremony at Harvard in the USA this weekend.

The Hippocrates Open Awards and Health Professional Awards are supported by the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine. The FPM is a UK medical society founded in 1918, which publishes the international journals the Postgraduate Medical Journal and Health Policy and Technology.

The judges were Pulitzer winner Jorie Graham, paediatrician and ER producer Neal Baer, Scotland’s Makar (National Poet), Jackie Kay, New York poet Maya Catherine Popa, and New York Poet and psychiatrist Owen Lewis.

Unusually, the international Hippocrates Prize attracts both health professionals and established poets from around the world – with a strong emphasis on highly accessible poetry that comes from direct personal experience. This year the themes ranged from setting up a field hospital in Iraq, to recovery from depression, illness in children, breast cancer, and in the Young Poet’s category, to a description of how Alzheimer’s affects a grandfather’s face.

“These poems show us everything we have in common,’” said Jackie Kay. “They help us with grief and grieving. But above all they make us cherish life, our health, our minutes and our hours. I’d keep these poems about me as my companions. They radiate light. One minute you’re reading a poem from a patient, the next a doctor, the next a nurse, the next a porter, the next a friend, the next a family member. One minute you’re reading a poem set in a standard hospital in the UK, the next a makeshift hospital in Iraq”

Neal Baer, producer of ER observed: ”Here the ordinary becomes extraordinary. These poems relate with emotional depth and in fresh and compelling ways what it means to be healthy and sick.”


The FPM Hippocrates Health Professional First Prize went to Kathy D’Arcy from Cork, Ireland for a poem exploring the human heart. First runner-up was respiratory physician Andrew Dimitri from Sydney, Australia, who wrote about the challenges of setting up a field hospital near the Mosul front line. Andrew Dimitri also works a doctor for the international humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières. Second runner-up was Iora Dawes, from Stafford, who has worked as a medical social worker. Iora wrote about the experience of parents awaiting the outcome of surgery on a child in hospital.


The FPM Hippocrates Open First Prize went to poet Alisha Kaplan from Toronto in Canada for a poem about recovery from depression. Runners-up were Claire Collison from London, England for a poem set in a natural oasis hidden on Hampstead Heath and Rosie Jackson from Somerset in England for a poem about alleviating mental distress.


The winner of the Hippocrates £500 Young Poet Award was Erin O’Malley, Pennsylvania, USA writing about Alzheimer’s in her grandfather. The short-listed Hippocrates Young Poets were from the USA  Rachel Litchman, Michigan and Joyce Zhou, Illinois; from the UK Roberta Maia Sher, London and Izzy Wythe, Oundle; and from Singapore Vernon Yian.

Young Poets judge Maya Catherine Popa said: “It is wonderful that a prize with this kind of international visibility aims to encourage young writers from around the globe. As a teacher of this age group, I am often amazed at the creativity, insight, and skill of young writers. I wish more prizes aimed to showcase and support these voices.”

The judges also agreed a record twenty-nine commendations in the Health Professional category, reflecting the high quality of entries, with a further sixteen poems commended in the Open category, from poets from around the world: from the UK, Ireland, the USA and Canada, to Australia, Singapore, the Philippines and Switzerland.

Jorie Graham commented: “That so much raw suffering, clear-sighted understanding of the vicissitudes of fate, and the perhaps lucky accidents of medical knowledge, or chance, or compassion, could find their way through formal intelligence to these pages is barely short of a miracle. It is certainly a testament to the power of the imagination to heal, console, elegize and cry out against the terrible demands of life and destiny. It is hard to forget these voices once one inhabits their particular circumstances, their messages of belief and profound trust in the consolations of beauty.”

Owen Lewis too was impressed by the skill and compassion shown in the poems: “As a poet and a physician, reading through the entries as one of the judges for this year’s Hippocrates Prize was a real page-turner. This exciting and moving array of poems speaks to the experiences of illness and health, of patient and healer. The poems are written with both immediacy and reflection, with craft and heart-felt expression.”

“I am very pleased to be supporting this year’s Hippocrates Prize for poetry and medicine,” said patron of the awards Professor Anthony Fretwell-Downing. “These international awards are an excellent way to encourage people from around the world to take an interest in their health through poetry, as shown this year by entries from over 30 countries. The poems resonate with my sense of creativity.”

The Hippocrates Prize and this year’s awards symposium were supported by the medical charity the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine – publishers of the Postgraduate Medical Journal and Health Policy and Technology, the healthy heart charity the Cardiovascular Research Trust, philanthropist Professor Anthony Fretwell-Downing, the Hippocrates Initiative and the Arts and Humanities Initiative of Harvard Medical School.

With a prize fund of £6000 /~ USD 7500 for winning and commended poems, the Hippocrates Prize is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single poem. In its 8 years, the Hippocrates Prize has attracted over 8000 entries from over 60 countries, from the Americas to Fiji and Finland to Australasia.

See more about the shortlisted poets and what inspired them.

Notes for editors

For more on the shortlisted poets and the 2017 Hippocrates Awards, email

Hippocrates 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.

More on support for the 2017 Hippocrates Awards for Poetry and Medicine

The Hippocrates Open Awards and Health Professional Awards are supported by the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine. The FPM is a UK medical society founded in 1918, which publishes the international journals the Postgraduate Medical Journal and Health Policy and Technology.

The 2017 Hippocrates Young Poets 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.

Anthony Fretwell-Downing is former Advisory Board Chair of the University of Sheffield’s Management School and is currently a member of the CBI SME Enterprise Forum.

Judges for 2017 International Open and Health Professional Awards: Neal Baer, Harvard-trained American paediatrician and producer of ER; Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Jorie Graham; Jackie Kay, Scottish Makar (National Poet Laureate; and Professor Owen Lewis, New York, USA.

Young Poets Judge for 2017: Maya C Popa, New York, USA


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