UEA Appoints Christie Watson as Medical & Health Humanities Professor

The Costa Award winning writer, Christie Watson, whose 20-year nursing career informs much of her fiction and non-fiction work, has been appointed a Professor of Medical and Health Humanities at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Prof Watson, who in 2018 was awarded UEA’s honorary Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa, for her work on nursing and the arts, started the post on July 20.

Prof Fiona Lettice, UEA’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation, said the new professorship aligns with the planned launch of the CreativeUEA research theme.

Prof Lettice said: “We are delighted to welcome Christie to UEA, particularly as we further develop our cross-faculty medical and health humanities research and teaching activities.

“Christie’s experience as a nurse and author will be key to enabling exciting new interdisciplinary opportunities and initiatives across UEA and with our external partners.”

Prof Watson will work closely with both the Faculties of Arts and Humanities, and Medicine and Health Sciences, to ensure an integrated development of medical and health humanities in terms of creative research, public engagement, teaching and curriculum development. Her role will include engagement with disciplines from medicine and ethics to creative writing and drama to nursing, paramedic science, anthropology, history and more.

Prof Watson said she is “very much looking forward to further developing this vital discipline at UEA,” citing that incorporating humanities into health care training has been shown to enhance skills of empathy and teamwork, and contribute to positive mental health.

“The search for meaning during this profound time has only just begun and medical and health humanities have never been more important,” Prof Watson said.

WATCH: Christie Watson joins UEA as Professor of Medical and Health Humanities

The appointment also comes as UEA is about to begin the celebration of its ground-breaking Creative Writing degree course, which was the first in the UK when it began 50 years ago. A raft of initiatives and public programming will kick off in October.  

In September, Chatto and Windus will publish Prof Watson’s second non-fiction book, a medical memoir called The Courage to Care. Her first non-fiction book, The Language of Kindness, published in 2018, was a No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller and the Book of the Year in The Evening Standard, New Statesman, The Times, The Guardian and The Sunday Times. It has been translated into 23 languages, and is currently being adapted for theatre and television.

Prof Watson’s first novel, Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away (2011), won the Costa First Novel and Waverton Good Read awards. Her second novel, Where Women Are Kings (2013), also achieved international critical acclaim and both works have been widely translated.

After training and working at the Great Ormond Street Hospital, she worked as a nurse at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, in a career that spanned more than two decades. Prof Watson, who was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Bursary to take the MA in Creative Writing at UEA, later taught creative writing at various institutions, before returning to nursing work in the NHS during the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Image credit: Peter Clark

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