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Navigating the medical humanities: my route
  1. Deborah Bowman
  1. Correspondence to Professor Deborah Bowman, Division of Population Health The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, 120 Belsize Lane, London NW3 5BA, UK; DBowman{at}

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While health and illness have been the subjects of artistic exploration and scholarly thought since ancient times, the field of medical humanities is relatively young. Indeed, this journal was only founded at the turn of the 21st century. Many interested in, and contributing to, the broad field of medical humanities, are working in small groups or even alone. Although the health humanities community is broad and inclusive, it remains something of a minority pursuit in many university departments. Beyond the academy, clinicians, artists and practitioners are engaging with, and contributing to, the field in wide-ranging and creative ways, but again, these pursuits can be relatively invisible to their professional peers.

The inherent inter-disciplinary character and diversity of the medical humanities community are, for many, its greatest strengths. It does mean, however, that it can be difficult to discern how to begin and progress a career in the medical humanities. Talking to friends and colleagues working in the health humanities, one realises that there are many ways to engage with, and forge a path, in the field. Those conversations also reveal what many readers will know: that it can be a challenging and sometimes isolating journey, but it can also be liberating to realise the scope for creative and original ways of developing one's interests and forming a career.

One of the many privileges of being the editor of this journal is having the opportunity to engage with a wide range of people working in, and engaging with, the medical humanities. It is a privilege that also gives permission to ask impertinent questions about why and how individuals came to be where they are and about their reflections on, and assessments of, the medical humanities as a field of inquiry and practice. There is much to learn from, and be inspired …

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  • Contributors DB is the sole author and conducted all the interviews on which this paper is based. All the participants were free to respond as fully and openly as they wished. The responses have been edited for style and fluency only.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.