The immediacy of illness: the 2020 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize for Poetry and Medicine

Judge Lawrence Sail announced the £500 Hippocrates Young Poet Prize for Poetry and Medicine for 2020 as Cynthia Lu from Belmont, Massachusetts, USA for her poem Bright-body during a live webinar on 15th May, with participants from Sydney to California and throughout the UK.

R Cynthia Liu
2020 Hippocrates Prize Young Poet winner Cynthia Lu

Other poets shortlisted for the Young Poets Prize were Rachel Brooks, Trumbull, Connecticut, USA for Endoscopy results in room #1, Sabrina Guo, Oyster Bay, New York, USA for Pink Milk, Sarah Eliana Nachimson, Los Angeles, California, USA for Obituary of a Lost Girl and Katherine Vandermel from Bergen County, New Jersey USA for All the Places We’ve Been and Blur. There were also honourable mentions for Nathalie Shah from Birmingham, England for Edge of the Abyss and for Rachel Sharp, from Morpeth, England for A Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus Dad.


Poems by the winning and all the shortlisted poets are published in the 2020 Hippocrates Prize Anthology of 48 winning and commended poems in all three categories of the Hippocrates Prize. 

Click here for biographies of the shortlisted poets and what inspired their writing.

There were entries for the 2020 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize from 17 countries and territories:  Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kosovo, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea, USA, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Lawrence Sail said: “The young poets remind me in one way or another of the assertion that ‘poetry is not what you read, but what you re-read’. In these poems, the vivid and often raw world of medical experience meets the artistic quest for shape and meaning.”

Lawrence Sail is a freelance writer and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  In addition to thirteen books of poems, he has published two books of essays and a memoir of childhood, Sift (Impress Books 2010).  He has also edited a number of anthologies, including First and Always (Faber 1988), which raised more than £65,000 for the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.  He has been chairman of the Arvon Foundation and director of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature.

The 2020 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize is supported by healthy heart charity the Cardiovascular Research Trust.

Trustee Donald Singer said: “We are delighted to have such international interest in this innovative way to engage young people and the public of all ages in their health.”

Poets shortlisted for the 2020 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize
Top (from left): Sabrina Guo, Cynthia Lu, Rachel Brooks
Bottom: Sarah Nachimson (left), Katherine Vandermel



The International Hippocrates Prize is awarded in three categories:

– a £500 award for the Hippocrates Young Poets Prize for an unpublished poem in English on a medical theme. Entries are open to young poets from anywhere in the world aged 14 to 18 years. There are further commendations in the Young Poets category. There is no entry fee for the Young Poets prize.

– a £1000 first prize, £500 second prize and £250 third prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Open category, which anyone in the world may enter. There are a further ~20 commendations in the Open category

– a £1000 first prize, £500 second prize and £250 third prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional category, which is open to Health Service employees, health students and those working in professional organisations anywhere in the world involved in education and training of health professional students and staff. There are a further ~20 commendations in the Health Professional category

The Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine – winner of the 2011 Times Higher Education Award for Innovation and Excellence in the Arts – is an interdisciplinary venture that investigates the synergy between medicine, the arts and health.

Notes for editors
For more on the Hippocrates Prize, including details of the winners and the winning poems, contact Donald Singer on 07494 450 805 or

Support for the 2020 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize
The 2020 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize is supported by the Cardiovascular Research Trust, a healthy heart charity founded in 1996, which promotes research and education for the prevention and treatment of disorders of the heart and circulation. The charity has a particular interest in avoiding preventable heart disease through educating school students.

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