Lives in Medicine

Project Description

The project has been granted pump-priming funding by the John Fell Fund and Dr Jacek Mostwin to develop a major grant application from the Oxford Centre for Life Writing at Wolfson College (OCLW), in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes, the Oxford e-Research Centre, and the Wolfson College Digital Research Cluster. The major project will seek to improve the quality and ethical environment of medicine by directing the public, the medical and related professions, policy-makers and the medical industries to engage with and learn from the lived experience of patients and practitioners. Combining medical, life-writing and digital humanities expertise, it will create an extensive electronic archive of documents of lived experience in medicine, linked to a set of innovative research sub-projects and providing the platform for a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional network for research, education and public engagement. Starting from ten thousand patient accounts and additional physician and nursing accounts that have already been identified, the pump-priming project will scope the nature, sources and volume of life-writing data to be included in the archive, survey and identify the technological solutions that would maximize the potential of the data for research. It will also develop a network of researchers and projects, hosted by OCLW, that will engage with the project data. On this basis a detailed plan for a major grant application will be developed.

Research Connections

With its focus on the systematic collection of documents in the public domain, this project is distinct from and complementary to a number of related projects and organisations within Oxford and beyond; we shall collaborate with them as opportunities are presented. We are in contact with Professor Brian Hurwitz (King’s College London), whose Wellcome Trust-funded project, Illness Narrative as Life-Writing, explores the literary dimensions of illness narratives and their influence upon the public understanding of patients’ experiences. The Healthcare Values Partnership, led by Professor Joshua Hordern, links research initiatives across Oxford University that serve patients and healthcare workers. Research clusters outside Oxford that share parts of our vision are Medical Humanities Sheffield and the Institute for Medical Humanities at Durham University. Further connections outside the UK will be facilitated both by the partnership with Johns Hopkins University and by collaboration with the Oxford-based Health Experiences Research Group (HERG), which is linked to associated groups in various countries under the umbrella organisation, DIPEx International.


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