hands touching rainbow on glass

Exploring health through the Medical Humanities



With vision, creativity and collaboration, there is a hopeful future ahead. Science will cure us. Art will save us.

Medical and Health Humanities, a new research group at UEA, explores our health experiences from social, cultural, historical, political and ethical perspectives.

Many of our academics are involved in the development of this emerging, exciting discipline. We are developing an MA/MSc in Medical and Health Humanities, along with pioneering research and innovative collaborations with global partners.


Dr Harriet Cooper’s research explores the intersection of medical humanities, cultural disability studies and applied qualitative health research. In 2019, she convened UEA’s distinctive interdisciplinary 'Health Humanities Seminar Series', a pioneering exploration of this new and expanding field.
Psychology researcher Dr Victoria Scaife collaborated with Laura Drysdale of the Restoration Trust, a cultural therapy charity, as part of the 'Change Minds' community research project. Working with the Norfolk Records Office, the project invited participants to investigate records of local asylum patients in the 19th century, and respond through creative writing, exhibition, music and theatre. The project received a 2020 Medical Humanities Award, recognising its impact on our understanding of mental health. 
Our interdisciplinary research includes a variety of projects, including an installation ‘What is a Body, what is a Person’ by Dr Andrea Stöckl, studies of human physicality in film and television by Dr Beccy Collings and Dr Harriet Cooper’s book entitled Critical Disability Studies and the Disabled Child: Unsettling Distinctions.

Professor Tessa McWatt’s research has led to seven novels and recent non-fiction, Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging, which examines what it means to be human and the trauma of racism.


Our students are working with the world-renowned Sainsbury Centre to challenge prejudices, biases and preconceptions about caring professionals.



Throughout history, times of extreme suffering have led to periods of enormous creativity. UEA’s vision for the Medical and Health Humanities in a creative future is both ambitious and vital. Creativity is the binding force that joins the dots between the abstract and concrete, the metaphorical and literal - it helps us make sense of the world.

Art, stories and drama yield new ways of understanding ourselves, our health and our wellbeing. Creativity helps us understand our human condition and is key to our search for meaning.


Our work in ‘narrative medicine’ will use storytelling as a means of understanding and ultimately alleviating suffering of both the patient and healer.


Worldwide, interdisciplinary collaboration within universities is an expanding movement. Neuroscientists and musicians are working together to understand sound. Law students study filmmaking and filmmakers study law. 

Our Medical and Health Humanities team is currently working with researchers at UEA’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the Global Environmental Justice Group in UEA’s School of Development Studies. Together they will highlight the links between planetary health and human health, and the politics of access to health.

The future

In 2022, we’re set to launch a new MA/MSc in Medical and Health Humanities.

This will create a clear pathway to postgraduate study in the field. Our new course will explore health inequality in socio-economic and geopolitical contexts, and in relation to climate change. Here, our researchers and students will explore inclusive health policy and practice, involving health service users. This will ensure that lived experiences inform our understanding of illness and disability, and how we imagine inclusive healthcare systems.

Christie Watson, Professor in Medical and Health Humanities

Prof Christie Watson is an award-winning, bestselling writer. She was a nurse for twenty years and is currently Professor of Medical and Health Humanities at the University of East Anglia.

Her body of research includes two novels examining midwifery and mental health, and two non-fiction medical memoirs: The Language of Kindness: A Nurse's Story and The Courage to Care: A Call for Compassion, which has been called a ‘handbook for compassion’. Her current research is a book of narrative essays exploring love and ageing, and another collection of essays on wisdom, jointly written with her daughter. Her collective non-fiction works (on kindness, courage, love and wisdom) have been described as ‘a toolkit for how to be human’.

I am delighted to be part of the Medical and Health Humanities Team at UEA. We have ambitious plans for this exciting discipline that knits together medicine and art. Medical and Health Humanities helps further our understanding of humanity. I can’t think of a more timely and important subject.

Prof Christie Watson


Explore more projects