Medical Humanities Conference

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Oxford Medical Humanities for the public good

The goal of this conference is to explore how partnership between healthcare workers and medical humanities can support that prerequisite for excellent patient care, namely the welfare of healthcare workers. Healthcare services around the world, including the UK NHS, have rightly, in recent times, emphasised the importance of caring for their workforce. Simon Stevens, NHS England’s Chief Executive, has said that “NHS staff have some of the most critical but demanding jobs in the country. When it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly, the NHS needs to put its own house in order.”

Many global healthcare traditions have for centuries emphasised the welfare of the healer or healthcare worker. In developed healthcare cultures this has been at times forgotten and then rediscovered. So this new emphasis from the NHS is welcome amidst the deep challenges to morale that many healthcare workers are now experiencing. However, making the most of it in practice requires depth of understanding so that change does not proceed on an ad hoc or, worse, superficial and token basis.

Healthcare workers are people, with beliefs and values, narratives, culture and history, all of which have the potential to shape how healthcare is experienced.

As humanities researchers and healthcare professionals, we believe that humanities subjects are distinctively well-placed to help us reflect on how to care for caregivers. The complexities of both being and caring for embodied, suffering, narrative creatures are illumined by the wisdom and insight which the subject matter and disciplines of humanities scholarship offer.

The theme of ‘Seeking the Welfare of Healthcare Workers’ will provide a starting point and fruitful focus for colleagues in the medical humanities, medical sciences and in healthcare services to work together, form a stronger collective identity and discover new opportunities for research, engagement and practical policy changes which will serve the public good. We hope that our gathering in September will strengthen existing initiatives and cause new ones to emerge in order to serve our overall shared goals.

Confirmed presenters include: Dr Helen Small (Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford), Dr Andrew Papanikitas (GP and NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer in General Practice, Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford), Dr Claire Pulford (Divisional Education Lead (Medicine), Consultant Physician, Trauma/Geratology, John Radcliffe Hospital), Dr Sophie Ratcliffe (Associate Professor of English, University of Oxford, The Poetry of Medicine), Dr Andrew Schumann (GP and author, The Poetry of Medicine), Dr Emma McKenzie-Edwards, (GP King Edward Street and GP tutor, University of Oxford), Dr Jeremy Howick (Senior Researcher, Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford), Dr Joshua Hordern (Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Oxford Healthcare Values Partnership, University of Oxford) Professor Deborah Bowman (Editor, Journal of Medical Humanities), Dr Paquita De Zulueta (Open Section, Royal Society of Medicine), and Dr Trevor Stammers (Centre for Bioethics and Emerging Technologies).


We have a limited number of spaces for posters of work (and artwork) connected to the conference theme.

Contact for more information.


Medical Humanities
Compassion in Healthcare

Contact name: Andrew Papanikitas
Contact email:
Audience: Open to all