US poet Maya Popa and Cornwall's Kate Compston win Hippocrates prizes

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Teacher and writer Maya Popa, pictured, from New York, has won the £5,000 Hippocrates open prize for poetry and medicine. Second was Pascale Petit, and third was Catherine Ayres.

Another £5,000 Hippocates prize, in the NHS category, went to former counsellor Kate Compston, from Cornwall. Second was Ann Lilian Jay, with Carole Bromley and Rowena Warwick sharing third prize.  Parisa Thepmankorn, from Rockaway, New Jersey, received the £500 2015 Hippocrates Young Poet prize. The other shortlisted young poets were Daniella Cugini from Warwick, and US poets Alex Greenberg and Alexandra Spensley.

Maya Popa said of her poem, ‘A Technique for Operating on the Past’:  "I had long wanted to write a poem about my great-grandfather, after whom the medical university in Iași, Romania, is named. He worked on neuromorphology in the 1930s and 40s, but his remarkable research was ultimately cut short in light of his anti-fascist, and anti-communist affiliations. That he was forced into hiding and died of a routine ailment while escaping the communists still seems a dark irony. In a way, writing this poem felt like a letter to him, an acknowledgement of that unfairness.”

Kate Compston practised as a psychodynamic counsellor, working in an agency and GP surgeries in Hampshire, and is now retired. She said her winning poem, ‘Lovely young consultant charms my husband’, was “prompted by the visit, 13 years ago, of the very attractive and talented psycho-geriatrician, who came to our home to give us the news of my husband Malcolm’s diagnosis … For some reason that is still obscure to me, he was ‘a fascinating case’, and was asked whether he would mind being the subject of a research paper … What stayed with me for years afterwards was the tension I could see being played out within her, on this occasion, between professional scientific excitement about something unusual, and her humanity: of course she knew that the news meant only one thing: Malcolm’s inevitable deterioration and death.” He died in 2006. Kate has recently trained as a “soul midwife”, and is concerned that the dying be heard, and given as many options and as much tender care as they need. She is a member of Indian King Poets.

The prizes were presented at an award ceremony at Friday 22 May, at the Medical Society of London.

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