Humanities and Healthcare

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The Humanities and Healthcare project is funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) awarded by Research England and by the Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund. The project is managed by Professor Joshua Hordern of the Oxford Healthcare Values Partnership and allied to the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

The project’s aim is to undertake and promote interdisciplinary and inter-institutional work to improve the quality and ethos of healthcare through research and policy development. The project will expand and strengthen the humanities division’s capacity to undertake research and policy work in healthcare, supporting and encouraging new funding applications and new partnerships with external organisations.

Specifically, work will include:
  • research leadership to support the collaboration of humanities and medical science researchers with colleagues from other relevant disciplines;
  • supporting policy engagement around healthcare and humanities across the university, especially in relation to partnerships with external organisations;
  • supporting the development of funding proposals for work across humanities and healthcare;
  • focused research and policy work on a number of specific healthcare-related projects managed by OHVP (see

The project supports Oxford University’s Knowledge Exchange Strategy to use Oxford’s world-class research base, outstanding networks, and strong convening power in the dynamic exchange of knowledge for social, cultural and economic benefit.

Why humanities and healthcare?

Humanities disciplines have a huge contribution to make to the policy and practice of modern healthcare, providing insight into what helps sustain and restore health for people and communities – particularly as we turn from a largely biomedical model of healthcare towards a greater balance between biomedical and social conceptions of healthcare.

Humanities researchers bring insights and skills to fields of research and practice that require emotional intelligence, consideration of ethics and values, and appreciation of human complexity in the context of healthcare. Historical perspectives which cast light on modern situations, examining technological innovations from a socio-cultural perspective and considering how compassion may be expressed in policy and practice are just some of the ways in which humanities can contribute to many of the healthcare challenges we face.

Humanities and Healthcare Impact Case Studies
     Dr Jeremy Howick’s application of philosophical approaches to health science has helped shape how we leverage
     placebos in clinical trials and treatment, and determine the quality of evidence required in ‘evidence-based medicine’.
     Researchers at Oxford University in partnership with the Royal College of Nursing, have developed a game which
     helps nurses to develop critical thinking skills and supports evidence-based practice.
     Advancing Medical Professionalism A new report by Oxford University’s Healthcare Values Partnership and the
     Royal College of Physicians aims to support doctors’ satisfaction in their profession and promote innovative, high
     quality healthcare for patients.


The humanities and healthcare team:

Joshua Hordern

Dr Joshua Hordern is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of Harris Manchester College and an Honorary Lecturer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Joshua's research interests concern compassion in healthcare, medical professionalism and precision medicine. He leads the Oxford Healthcare Values Partnership (

Joshua is a member of the Royal College of Physicians Committee for Ethical Issues in Medicine and co-author of the RCP’s recent report Advancing Medical Professionalism (2018). This report underpins work with the University of Oxford medical school devising a humanities-based medical professionalism curriculum for medical students. He has also collaborated with the UK Medical Research Council/Cancer UK funded Stratification in Colorectal Cancer Consortium and the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine. 

Sole-authored publications include Political Affections: Civic Participation and Moral Theology (OUP, 2013) and Compassion in Healthcare: Pilgrimage, Policy for Civic Life (OUP, forthcoming 2020). Coedited collections include Personalised Medicine: The Promise, The Hype and The Pitfalls (The New Bioethics 2017), Marketisation Ethics and Healthcare: Policy, Practice and Moral Formation (Routledge 2018) and Concepts of Disease: Dysfunction, Responsibility and Sin (Theology, 2018).

Recent/upcoming lectures include presentations at the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (Belfast/Milan), the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (Geneva) and the Centre for Personalised Medicine, Oxford.

Previously he was a research fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge and an elected local authority councillor.

Contact Joshua at:

Sally Frampton

Dr Sally Frampton is a Humanities and Healthcare Fellow. Her academic training and background is in the history of medicine, health and illness, from 1750 to the present. Sally has particular interests in surgery, public participation in first aid, the nature of medical innovation, and medical and health journalism. Her book, Belly-Rippers, Surgical Innovation and the Ovariotomy Controversy, looks at the dramatic history of ovariotomy, an operation to remove ovarian tumours first practiced in the early nineteenth century. Sally has worked on a number of interdisciplinary medical humanities projects at the University of Oxford, including Constructing Scientific Communities ( and Diseases of Modern Life (, both of which have had a strong focus on public engagement.

Sally is keen to build up a network of medical and healthcare humanities researchers at the University, with an emphasis on fostering interdisciplinary collaborations between medicine and the humanities. She is keen to hear from researchers interested in pursuing work in this area.

Contact Sally at:

Marie Allitt

Dr Marie Allitt is a Humanities and Healthcare Fellow, currently working on the Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Funded project ‘Advancing Medical Professionalism: Integrating Humanities Teaching in the University of Oxford’s Medical School’.

Marie has an undergraduate MA(Hons) from the University of Glasgow, and MSc by Research from the University of Edinburgh, in English Literature. Marie completed her PhD in English Literature at the University of York in 2018, focusing on experiences and representations of spaces and senses in First World War medical caregiving narratives.

Contact Marie at: