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Dr Kate Venables, Reader in the Nuffield Department of Population Health, recently received a commendation for her poem Bookshelf in this year’s highly prestigious Hippocrates Awards for Poetry and Medicine.

Kate VenablesNow in its 5th year, 2014 Hippocrates NHS and Open Prize for Poetry and Medicine were selected by judges poet Philip Gross, barrister Robert Francis QC and Mumsnet Editor Sarah Crown from over 1000 entries from 31 countries. 

Dr Venables is an occupational epidemiologist.  She recently edited a major book from Oxford University Press on current topics in occupational epidemiology. Outside of work, Dr Venables is a student on the University’s creative writing programme and her work has appeared in Flash, Lighthouse, and The Lake.

When asked what inspired Venables to write Bookshelf, she replied: “I have some of my father’s medical textbooks – he qualified in Edinburgh during the Second World War and then joined the RAMC and went to Burma in a Field Surgical Unit.  After the War he returned to his home in Yorkshire to work as an anaesthetist in the new NHS.  He died young as part of the 1950's coronary artery disease epidemic.  I always knew I wanted to follow him into medicine, and have never regretted it.  I realised that I could create this story of a father-daughter medical lineage from selected book titles and a few other artefacts.  So, it’s a ‘list poem’, almost a ‘found poem’, based on the view from my desk.”

The International Hippocrates Awards were presented by poet Philip Gross at the International Symposium on Poetry and Medicine at the Royal Society of Medicine in London on Saturday May 10th.

Judge Philip Gross said: ‘Reading the stronger poems in the Open and the NHS categories, I see how many of their qualities they share. Dedicated poet or health professional – maybe each needs the same disciplines of observation and exactness, care and a right handling of emotions, the ability to get up close and yet step back and see it whole.’ Judge Sarah Crown commented: ‘We think of healthcare first and foremost as a scientific arena; a realm of dosages, diagnoses, instruments and odds. The real pleasure of these poems for me was the way in which they made the case for the place, within this arena, of the personal and the beautiful, too.

2014-05-23 Books‘Reading them awakened me to the stories behind the science, and I found myself in tears on more than one occasion. Congratulations to everyone who submitted a poem, and particularly to the winners.’  

All winning and commended poems were published in the 2014 Hippocrates Awards Anthology.

Bookshelf by Kate Venables

Your 10th edition Hutchison’s Clinical Methods
sits next to my Hutchison’s 15th.
Your Gray’s Anatomy became mine.
But I had no need for
Surgery of Modern Warfare
Volumes I and II.

And I didn’t come back through Suez
a cigarette box in my kitbag
with a caduceus and laurel wreath
carved on the lid.
I didn’t spend time out
from war
drawing a temple lion
in Indian ink.
But then my shelf goes on
beyond yours.
You didn’t live long enough
to need Diseases of Occupations
or, for that matter,
Understanding the New NHS
And you missed out on
Rebuilding after Divorce

Manage your Mood

and Life after Medicine.
I’m glad we shared
a handful of one-inch maps
Days with Rarer Birds

and Hans Christian Andersen.

Dr Kate Venables

Current Topics in Occupational Epidemiology
Nuffield Department of Population Health
2014 Hippocrates Commended NHS entries