During the 1990s the Nuffield Trust funded a Council for Medical Humanities, bringing together a diverse range of individuals interested in the emerging field. This translated over the course of 2001-2 to a full-blown academic society, the Association for Medical Humanities. The AMH, the oldest such association, held its first major conference at Durham in 2003.  Since then, apart from 2007, the Association has held successive academic conferences at Swansea 2004; Truro 2005; London King’s College 2006; Glasgow 2008; Durham 2009; Truro 2010; Leicester 2011; Cork 2012; Aberdeen 2013; Southampton 2014; Dartington 2015; London, University of Greenwich (2016); Keele (2017); Sofia (2018); and Plymouth (2019).

From its early days a mutually-nurturing relationship between the Association and the equally youthful journal Medical Humanities led to a formal affiliation between the two, during the course of which both have shown an increasing range and sophistication as evidenced both in Association conference themes and in Journal contents. Full membership of the Association continues to bring with it subscription rights to the journal.

The Association has always enjoyed an international membership and has welcomed delegates from all five continents to its meetings. It is independent of direct affiliation to any academic institution but annual conferences are held in collaboration with a local University. The next annual conference will take place in Limerick at the end of June.

The AMH is now a registered charity. It has linked with Birkbeck School of Arts to host one-day seminars in London. The Association also provides financial support to fledgling medical humanities societies in UK medical schools and student competitions and prizes at the annual conference.

Some Past Presidents and Founding Members

Dr Joe O’Dwyer (2016-2019)
Consultant Anaesthetist or Anaesthetic Consultant .
Joe has worked as a doctor in the NHS for over 30 years. He has always had an interest in medical ethics; becoming a consultant in anaesthesia and pain management stimulated a broader interest in medical humanities and the impact that engagement with the arts might have on the pain experience. In 2008 he joined the Association for Medical Humanities and in 2012 completed a MA in Medical Humanities at Swansea University. Joe served as the Treasurer of the AMH from 2010-2016 and became President in July 2016 at the AGM in Greenwich. His focus as president was to strengthen the core structure of the AMH and to increase its value to members.


Professor Alan Bleakley (2013-2016)
Work/role/ academic practice:
Emeritus Professor of Medical Education and Medical Humanities, University of Plymouth School of Medicine. Retired from full-time academia 2015. Working part-time for University of Exeter Medical School; giving talks, examining PhD students etc nationally and internationally; busy writing and editing books.

Particular AMH achievements:

  • Early Council member, active in developing the profile of the Association and co-writing the first Constitution.
  • Drafted the new Constitution (2018).
  • Inaugurated and developed the first AMH website.
  • Re-ignited lapsed partnership with the BMJ Medical Humanities journal.
  • Developed partnership with the Wellcome Trust leading to regular financial support for annual conferences.
  • Planned and hosted three annual conferences: 2005, 2010, 2015.
  • Instrumental in building a partnership with the Canadian Association for Health Humanities.

The value of the medical humanities:
I have worked tirelessly to establish the medical humanities within medical education, particularly undergraduate curricula, and particularly in the UK and Canada. This has involved curriculum development work within my own medical school and as advisor to other schools and organisations; publishing in the field; and giving talks and seminars nationally and internationally. While the dominant voice of the medical humanities in the UK is now in the interdisciplinary academic study of medical culture, my own interest has been in promoting the medical humanities as a core and integrated aspect of a medical education.

My current work:
is mainly in writing. I am centrally involved in developing Taylor & Francis’ Routledge list of medical humanities books, where I have contributed five single authored and edited volumes so far, and have also co-written / edited two books for Cambridge Scholars Publishing:

Bates V, Bleakley A, Goodman S. (Eds.) 2013. Medicine, Health and the Arts: Approaches to the Medical Humanities. Abingdon: Routledge.

Bleakley A. 2016. Medical Humanities and Medical Education. Abingdon: Routledge.

Bleakley A. 2018. Thinking With Metaphors in Medicine: The State of the Art. Abingdon: Routledge.

Bleakley A. (Ed.) 2019. Routledge Handbook of the Medical Humanities. Abingdon: Routledge.

Bleakley, A. (Forthcoming 2020). Educating Doctors’ Senses Through the Medical Humanities: “How Do I Look?” Abingdon: Routledge.

Bleakley A, Lynch L, Whelan G. (Eds.) Risk and Regulation at the Interface of Medicine and the Arts: Dangerous Currents. Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Marshall R, Bleakley A. 2017. Rejuvenating Medical Education: Seeking Help from Homer. Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.


Paul Lazarus ( 2010 – 2013)
Founder member of AMH in 2002. Associate Professor of Medical Education. Previously a GP and honarary associate professor of medical education, Paul was a founder member of AMH in 2002. He organised AMH 2010 conference (“All the Ward’s a Stage”) at Leicester, retiring in 2018. During his work he developed the role of medical humanities as a source of informing and shaping healthcare education. He was the programme co-convenor for MA in Medical Humanities for arts/humanities graduates, healthcare professionals and for intercalating medical students.  And he was also convenor for postgraduate certificate in medical humanities for GPs.

His publications include:
Lazarus PA, Rosslyn FM. The Arts in Medicine: setting up and evaluating a new special study module at Leicester Warwick Medical School.  Medical Education 2003: 37(6);  553-5592.
Lazarus, P.A.  Patients’ experiences and perceptions of medical student candidates sitting a finals examination.  Medical Teacher  2007,. 29, (5), 484-489


Martyn Evans (2005)


Dr Richard Meakin (2002)


Jane McNaughton (Inaugural Secretary 2002 – 2007)
Inaugural Secretary of the AMH from its inception (2002) for 5 years.  The AMH grew out of a series of meetings supported by the Nuffield Trust chaired by Sir William Reid,  a Civil Servant known to the then Head of the Nuffield Trust, John Wyn Owen. Jane is a Director of the Institute for Medical Humanities at Durham University, which is supported by the Wellcome Trust.  Her medical humanities work is entirely research- based. She is also an honorary gynaecologist in Durham working in Colposcopy. Jane hosted the AMH Conference in Durham in 2009.

The Value of Medical Humanities
Our work in IMH aims to transform the health evidence base through the study of human experience.  We believe that the evidence that health professionals draw upon for health care interventions needs to be based on a wider set of knowledge and methods – including those from the humanities and social science.  My work in IMH focussed on the idea of the symptom, and the process by which sensations become symptoms in a clinical context.  My current project focusses on the symptom of breathlessness.