‘Rhythmia: poetry and health’ – St Andrews initiative opens up to University of Dundee

Friday 18 March 2022

Staff within the School of Medicine at the University of St Andrews, working in collaboration with the Scottish Poetry Library, are delighted to introduce ‘Rhythmia: poetry and health’– a series of events for staff and students that follows on from the Poems for Doctors initiative.


The union of medical education and poetry is well established in Scotland.  Since 2014, a copy of the book ‘Tools of the Trade’ has been given to all graduating medical students in Scotland.  Now on its third edition, Tools of the Trade is an anthology of 50 poems which aim to inspire compassion, comradery and resilience in graduating medical students as they become junior doctors. The Poems for Doctors project involved the work of Steve Smart, former Information Designer at the Schools of Medicine and Biology, including development of  a website showcasing short films of health professionals reciting poems from Tools of the Trade.  Steve’s love of poetry and his skills in the design and development of online spaces has led to a fantastic resource for doctors with the associated Facebook page having more than 600 members.


The Rhythmia Project aims to build on the foundations laid by Poems for Doctors, and to provide a space for students, staff, and healthcare workers to engage with poetry and ideas about health. The Team are planning a series of participatory and interactive events.  In January the first event ‘Nothing but the Poem’ was held online, and offered an invitation to read, listen, and respond to poems together, interspersed by facilitated discussion to tease out thoughts, reactions, themes, and ideas. This session was hosted by Sam Tongue from the Scottish Poetry Library. The latest event in February, an online workshop with academic and poet, Dr Patrick Errington of the University of Edinburgh was extended to include members of the medical school at the University of Dundee.  All sessions are aimed at complete newcomers to poetry and to those who may already be writing their own pieces.


Dr Kathryn Steven, Clinical Lecturer at the School and protagonist of Rhythmia said: “Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the changing world we live in, we hope that opportunities to engage in poetry will nurture creativity and self-expression, mental wellbeing, and skills in listening and communication.”


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