2021 FPM-Hippocrates Prize Health Professional Commendations

We shall announce the winners in the Health Professional, Open and Young Poets categories of the 2021 Hippocrates Prize by live webinar on Zoom 

Wed 19th May from 8.30pm UK time
2021 Hippocrates Prize Awards Ceremony and readings of shortlisted poems
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* Wed 14th July from 9pm UK time - Please note the change of date *
Readings of commended Health Professional poems in the 2021 Hippocrates Prize  
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Wed 11th August from 9pm UK time
Readings of commended Open poems in the 2021 Hippocrates Prize  
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Health Professional Commendations 

Shirley Ala  Harrison, Cumberland, Maine, USA

Véronique Béquin  Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Jane Boxall  Bisbee, Arizona, USA

Louisa Campbell  Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England
In Between

Diana Cant  Faversham, Kent, England

Oona Chantrell  Greenwich, London, England
A Woman’s Reprieve

Stuart Charlesworth  Norwich, Norfolk, England

Iora Dawes   Stafford, England
A referral from the ENT clinic

Andrew Rafik Azmy Dimitri  Marrickville, NSW, Australia
Three months

Andy Jackson Errol, Perth and Kinross, Scotland
Dementia Song

David Francis   Carlton, Victoria, Australia

Ann Lilian Jay Bryn Teifi, Bangor Teifi, Ceredigion, Wales

Michael James Leach   Strathdale, Victoria, Australia
I recall when the kind ICU staff kept calm

Tom Lee  Gosforth, Tyneside, England
Bed 4

Miles Johnston McInerney   La Jolla, California, USA
Supply Chain

Thomas Millner  London, England
Per Mortem

Alyson Porter  Corrales, New Mexico, USA
Learning the Etymology of Diagnosis

Karen Schofield   Wilmslow, Cheshire, England   
After Induction Therapy

HR Spencer   White Rock, South Carolina, USA

Jane Thomas  Oxford, England
Comfort always

Susan Thomas   Westhumble, Surrey, England
Donning and Doffing

Emma Westermann  Tampa, Florida, USA
Bone’s-Eye Shop

Biographies of Commended Poets
and notes on the inspiration for their poems

Shirley Ala said: "I was a trauma RN for 15 years before going to Albany Medical College to become a physician assistant.  I work in family medicine and psychiatry and truly love what I do!  When not working, I enjoy exploring the planet, hiking, biking, skiing, Paddleboarding, or being nestled in at home, cooking, knitting, reading and writing.  

About the inspiration for her poem Barriers she said:   "During the Covid pandemic, if I had to go into a store, I was greeted at the door by an employee ensuring my mask was on correctly and then giving me a healthy dose of hand sanitiser before I was permitted entry.   I must have been feeling deprived of tactile stimulation one particular day, and I just started thinking that wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could rid ourselves of this lethal virus by rolling around in the sand,  on the grass, or just slither around on the rocks.  It was an entertaining thought and such a fun poem to write!"

Shirley Ala

Véronique Béquin said: "I live and write in southwestern Canada. I have been a speech language pathologist for several decades. I have lived in France, and the UK. My work has been published in Canadian, American, and British journals and anthologies. I have won the Alice Munro Short Story prize, and I have been short listed for the Bridport Prize and the Wasafari Prize. My writing is often inspired by themes of loss and grief, and my own experiences of moving across cultures, languages, and countries."

She added:"My poem GBM IV is dedicated to one of my sisters who died from a brain tumour within 7 months of the diagnosis. We shared experiences of migrations and multilingualism. The loss of language associated with her cancer was devastating to her of course. My professional knowledge as a speech therapist was both a blessing and a curse at the time as I tried to help my sister use different ways to communicate. Before she died, my sister asked me to write about her.” 

VBequin Hippocrates 2021

Jane Boxall is a newly-qualified EMT, an adventurous percussionist, and a prize-winning poet. She has been shortlisted for several competitions, including the 2018 Keats-Shelley Prize in poetry, the Ouse Washes Poetry Competition, the Better Than Starbucks sonnet contest, and the Erbacce Prize. In October 2020 she was awarded the Anne LaBastille Memorial Writers Residency, in northern New York.

She said: "Breakers is specifically about my most recent epileptic seizure. I consider my epilepsy to be both a nuisance and a gift. Each seizure acts as a sort of circuit-breaker, prompting me to reassess and recalibrate. Through managing my own epilepsy, and caring for people with severe seizure disorders, I better understand our brains, bodies, and behaviour. Epilepsy has been a major catalyst in my wish to become an EMT -- realised during the 2020/2021 lockdowns, when my work as a touring musician stopped completely. More generally, this poem is about vulnerability, and the changes wrought by patterns of catastrophe. It’s about finding hope in failure, and in strangers’ kindness.

R Jane Boxall

Louisa Campbell has two published poetry pamphlets: The Happy Bus (Picaroon Poetry, 2017), and The Ward (Paper Swans Press, 2018). Her first full collection, Beautiful Nowhere, is about her experiences as both mental health nurse and patient, and was published in May 2021 by Boatwhistle Books. She lives in Kent, England. 

A few words about the poem, In BetweenLouisa Campbell was successfully treated for throat cancer by the wonderful NHS in 2020, and her poem In Between describes real, life-enhancing events that she experienced as a result.

Diana Cant is a child and adolescent psychotherapist and a poet. For many years she worked as a psychotherapist with disadvantaged young people in inner London, and more recently with severely damaged and abused children in therapeutic communities in Kent.  She has an MA in Poetry from the Poetry School, and her work has been published in various anthologies, and in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Brittle Star, Finished Creatures and The Alchemy Spoon.  Her pamphlet, Student Bodies, 1968, was published last year by Clayhanger Press.

Louisa Campbell

She said: "The inspiration for my poem Cygnet came to me from a number of adolescent girls with whom I have worked who started to self-harm, and who were often reluctant to speak about it.  Often help was sought by their worried parents, who felt desperate and helpless themselves.  Self-harm can be driven by many sources, but there can often be an intrinsic ambivalence about moving towards adulthood."

Diana Cant

Oona Chantrel
l writes from East Greenwich in South London. She is a member of the Greenwich Poetry Workshop which she has been involved with for over fifteen years.

She said: "The poem A Woman's Reprieve almost wrote itself since it recounts something that happened to my own mother in hospital in the late 1980s.  My mother did, indeed, send for a mail-order dress (a glorious red one) from her hospital bed.  She made the most of her ‘reprieve' and wore the dress happily during the remaining months of her life."

R  Oona Chantrell

Stuart Charlesworth is a learning disabilities nurse. He has both a BSc in Nursing and an MA in Creative Writing from The University of East Anglia and he works and writes in Norwich. He helps run the live literature event Café Writers, was commended in the 2018 Brittle Star poetry competition and shortlisted for the 2020 Rialto poetry pamphlet competition.

About the inspiration behind his poem, Handover he said: "The necessity of putting aspects of the self aside in order to take up the role of 'The Nurse' is perhaps most keenly felt at the start of an early shift, when the nurse in charge from the night before leads the new day shift through the ceremony of the handover. I sometimes wonder what people in other lines of work have in its place to help them through this daily metamorphosis.”

Stuart Charlesworth Photo

Iora Dawes worked as a Medical Social Worker at Salisbury General Infirmary and Kingsmill Hospital, Mansfield. She won 3rd prize in the Hippocrates awards in 2017 and 3rd prize in the Manchester Cathedral poetry competition, 2019.

She said: "A referral from the ENT clinic describes how it was, starting out on a career and feeling inadequate in the face of extreme suffering and, sometimes, antagonism. It’s also about recognising that a professional relationship is very much a two-way relationship."

iora-dawes-2017 med

Andrew Rafik Azmy Dimitri is an Egyptian-Australian poet and physician based in Sydney, Australia. Since 2010 he has been doing missions for Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in some of the most challenging and complex regions of the globe, in response to conflicts, refugee crises and disease outbreaks. Andrew's poetry draws deeply from these experiences. In 2017 he was the runner up in the Hippocrates Prize, and his first collection of poems, Winter in Northern Iraq, was published by the Hippocrates Press in 2019. 

Andrew Dimitri-5

David Francis is a general and transplant surgeon in Melbourne, Australia, and has also worked in the U.K. and in Kathmandu, Nepal. His poetry and short stories have been published in national and international anthologies and journals, including Award Winning Australian Writing, The University of Canberra Vice Chancellor's International Poetry Prize Anthology, Prayers of a Secular World Anthology and the Medical Journal of Australia. His first poetry collection, Promises Made at Night, was published by the Melbourne Poets Union in 2013. He recently completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne; his thesis was entitled Here Be Monsters: Body Imagery in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath. He has also published over two hundred papers and chapters in surgical and scientific journals and books.

About the inspiration for Monsoon he said: "As a general surgeon, I have performed many mastectomies, an operation which I dislike and which many women fear. While potentially life-saving, the operation is mutilating. The poem was inspired by a patient’s response to this procedure that I undertook for her.”

David Francis-05-19

Andy Jackson is a retired Medical Librarian. In addition, he has published three collections of poetry and edited or co-edited nine poetry anthologies on a variety of topics. His latest collection is The Saints Are Coming (Blue Diode, 2020). He is co-editor of the broadsheet Poetry Scotland.

He said: "Dementia Song was inspired by observing the deterioration of a family member suffering from vascular dementia over a ten-year period. The poem reflects the dismantling of memory, cognition and speech over time, that process of degeneration being one of the cruellest symptoms of the disease. I hope that readers who have experience of living with someone with a neurodegenerative disorder will recognise the speech patterns and behaviours used in the poem.”

R Andy Jackson 2021

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 involved getting lost in country lanes and occasional glimpses of the sea. Since retiring in 2010 she has been indulging a lifelong love of writing poetry, in particular poetry that mines the interface between her work as a doctor in the NHS and being a patient of that same much-loved institution. She volunteers at a local hospice and with a charity supporting village health teams in Uganda. Apart from that she likes to read, adores her four granddaughters, and gardens badly, which greatly benefits the local wildlife.

She said: "I was inspired to write my poem, entitled Confessional, after seeing a painting of St Agatha, an early Christian martyr, who was tortured by having her breasts ripped off. She is often depicted carrying her breasts on a platter and is considered the patron saint of breast cancer sufferers. The experience made me consider the different and often paradoxical ways people respond to serious illness and what they may put their faith in, and about how I reacted to my own diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in 1997.

Hippo photo

Michael Leach is an Australian academic and poet with a background in pharmacy, biostatistics, and epidemiology. Michael is based at the Monash University School of Rural Health, Bendigo, where he undertakes research, teaches across medical and postgraduate degrees, and runs poetry workshops to encourage reflection, empathy, and wellbeing. His poems reside in Medical Humanities, the Medical Journal of Australia, Pulse—Voices from the Heart of Medicine, Consilience, Cordite Poetry Review, Meniscus Literary Journal, Still You—Poems of Illness and Healing (Wolf Ridge Press, 2020), and elsewhere. Michael’s debut poetry collection is a chapbook of health-related poems entitled Chronicity (Melbourne Poets Union, 2020).

About his poem he said: "In early June 2020, my beloved, loving mother suddenly fell critically ill. After attending hospital for a test, she was quickly admitted to the ICU and subsequently diagnosed with severe bilateral heart failure. My family and I visited Mum separately in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions and spent time in the waiting room, where we received regular updates from the kind, calm ICU staff. I was so shocked and upset by the updates—news I knew to be very bad from the beginning—that I shook both psychologically and physically. Several days after admission, Mum passed away as the sun rose. I wrote the poem I recall when the kind ICU staff kept calm during a period of reflection later that same month.”

Michael  Leach

Tom Lee is a Consultant Gastroenterologist in Northumbria, England. He said: "Writing poetry competes for time with a busy day job and a young family.” 

He added: “The poem Bed 4 is from a collection of observations and stories collected from a gastroenterology ward over the last 2 years. The poem draws on many accounts of loneliness and grief that have been shared with me. These are expressed through one gentleman`s devastating story. The context of the poem is the extraordinarily privileged position we are in as healthcare professionals to have such stories shared with us.”


Miles Johnston McInerney is a British-American poet. For the past year, he worked in a COVID hot spot hospital at the US-Mexican border and the first hospital in the region to treat COVID-19 patients, including the 13th and 14th cases of US nationals airlifted from Wuhan, China. 

He was a commended poet in 2018, and in 2019, he was shortlisted for the Hippocrates Young Poets Prize. In 2019, he was a National Student Poet nominee, the nation's highest honor for youth poets presenting original work in the US. 

He said: "Supply Chain was written during the pandemic, and  recognizes the dedication non-clinical hospital workers contributed to patient care.”


Tom Millner is a neuropathologist and academic in London, England. His poetry can also be read in Between the Lines 2020: An Anthology of Creative Writing by City Lit Students.

He said: "In my clinical work I often perform autopsies and I'm continually amazed by the intricacies of the human body. My poem Per mortem was written as an exploration of the strong emotions that can be elicited while undertaking an autopsy.

R Digital photo - Tom Millner

Alyson Porter  Corrales, New Mexico, USA

On Learning the Etymology of Diagnosis

Alyson Porter is a preventive medicine physician who has worked in clinical addiction treatment and public health. She lives in New Mexico with her family near a forested stretch of the Rio Grande--a swath of green through the desert and a waypoint or terminus each year for many birds in migration. Her writing has appeared in poetry and flash fiction anthologies. Other interests include reading, cooking, and trail-walking; in recent years she has walked the Cotswold Way with her daughter and a section of the Wales Coast Path.

About "Learning the etymology of diagnosis” she said: "This poem evolved over several years during my experience with breast cancer--a phase in which I often felt a kind of estrangement from language, and etymologies offered unexpected solace. In writing this piece, I wanted to explore some of the tensions that arise in illness--between one's inner and outer worlds, action and indecision, preoccupation and letting go--and the ways in which we keep contending with uncertainty and carry forward dissonant notions and possibilities."

Karen Schofield said: "I am a retired consultant haematologist and an active contributor to Keele University Medical School’s  humanities programme. My poetry is often informed by my clinical experiences. I was awarded 3rd prize in Hippocrates in 2016 and have five commended places." 

She added: After Induction Therapy is an attempt to convey the transformative effect of intensive treatment not only on the patient’s body but also on their sense of self.

Karen Schofield

H. R. "Randy" Spencer is a retired physician whose career was spent in public mental health services for children and youth, first in California, and then for many years in South Carolina (USA). He attended the College of William and Mary as an undergraduate and Emory University School of Medicine to receive his M.D. He later obtained an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of South Carolina. His poetry books include "The Failure of Magic," "What the Body Knows," and most recently, "The Color After Green" (Finishing Line Press, 2019), a collection of poems about the natural world and our troubled relationship toward it. Individual poems and short stories have appeared in national and regional literary journals. His full-length verse drama, "Becoming Robert Frost," has thus far had staged readings, and was featured in  the Piccolo Spoleto Sundown Poetry Series several years ago.

About the inspiration for Coma he said: “When I was in my Junior Year" in medical school, a desperate attempt was made to save the lives of several children with acute liver failure by perfusing their blood through the liver of a chimpanzee to cleanse it. The poem records the experience through one child's eyes, and then through the eyes of the chimpanzee, and the remarkable, though sadly short-lived, response to the effort. The medical literature records several failed attempts to use primates in this manner.”  

HR Randy Spencer

Jane Thomas is currently completing a pamphlet on the subject of Alzheimer’s. This year she has had poems published in: Stand, The Rialto, Envoi, Mslexia, ASH, Oxford Review of Books, ORbits and The Oxford Magazine. In 2020 she was commended in The Poetry Society Stanza Competition and shortlisted in the Rialto pamphlet competition. She works at The King’s Fund and lives in Oxford.

About Comfort always she said: "I am interested in health inequalities and how they are being widened by an under resourced health service.  As a poet I am also interested in the importance of words and communication. Two articles in the BMJ inspired this poem. Doctors in the NHS are increasingly having to turn to google translate as translation services are expensive and cumbersome (BMJ, 2014). Google Translate has only 57.7% accuracy when used for medical phrase translations, (BMJ, 2019). Our tech platforms are fully functional for ecommerce and marketing purposes but not for health translation which is essential for patient care and the medic’s ability to provide ‘comfort always’."


Susan Thomas has been a Palliative Care Staff Nurse in a hospice for thirty years.  She lives in Westhumble Surrey and is member of Mole Valley Poets.  She won The Elmbridge Prize for her poem Nursing White.

She said: "The inspiration for her poem Donning and Doffing was the feeling of vulnerability as a nurse being propelled into battle at the beginning of the pandemic with the then limited resources, and the link with history through the curiously archaic terminology surrounding PPE."

Susan Thomas

Emma Westermann-Clark is an allergy/immunology physician in Tampa, Florida, USA. Through her work with the Arts in Medicine program at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, she became interested in narrative medicine.

She said: "The inspiration for Bone's-Eye Shop was a young patient on the bone marrow transplant ward who expressed a desire to grow up and nurture bonsai trees." 

ewc professional pic

onion © Hippocrates initiative 2012: hippocrates.poetry@gmail.com