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What is Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities? And why should you read our blog?

”Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities is an interdisciplinary knowledge centre aiming to develop medical humanities in research, education and external engagement. The centre exists thanks to a generous donation from the Birgit Rausing Foundation for Medical Humanities, is accessible to many and hosted by one of Northern Europe’s most outstanding universities, Lund University.”

Yes, this is a formal presentation we’re using quite often – the short version of a longer, more thrilling, story. In this blog, I’ll be telling that story. Possibly in ways making my colleagues within the Literature department cringe, but with the genuine wish to give you glimpses of what exactly it is we’re up to at BRCMH. The selection of topics, the wording and the “takes on things” are mine and of course you’re more than welcome to comment on them below.

We have a Swedish blog as well. Content wise the two blogs differ and the Swedish one is updated more frequently. I’ll cross reference when appropriate but try to keep “typical university stuff” off our international readers’ plate. Are there any topics you would wish to read about? Thought you’d never ask: Just write me an e-mail or, again, use the comment-space below for suggestions.

Åsa Thormählen

Administrative coordinator at Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities. Lund University

November 17, 2022

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A guest blog post: “…. very nearly perfect. Some thoughts after an Erasmus-visit at BRCMH”

The month of February is often rather dreary here in Lund. What a treat then to be able to welcome Linda Hamrin Nesby here during her Erasmus-week – and she brought blue sky as well. We asked her to write a guest blog post on her experiences here. Enjoy!

I came to Lund from Norway as part of an Erasmus staff training exchange late February. The intent of the visit was twofold, namely, to get a grasp of the interdisciplinary activities at the center both due to leadership, research, and education. But also, more specific to talk to contributors at BRCMH about their experiences at interdisciplinary supervision of PhD-student – a subject of special interest to me as I am about to write a book about PhD-supervision.

Jonathan Widstrand and Johan Mårtensson very generously shared experiences from their own PhD-experiences, and Johan also talked about how to supervise students on his own – having a different background than himself. Being in an interdisciplinary environment the connection between researchers from different disciplines were often taken for granted. Yet being curious and openminded and truly caring about the candidates were a premise for the success: “They are the oldest of my children, but somehow also the last” – as Johan so aptly quoted one of his colleges at Max Planck.

I had wonderful thought-provoking conversations with both Jonatan, Johan, Martin Garwicz and Katarina. However, the thing that perhaps made the strongest impression on me was the Katarina’s class with a group of medical students. They had just had their first autopsy. Together with Katarina, an amanuensis, and a senior doctor they were now reading three short poems about the subject. One of the poems (by physician-poet John Stone) went like this:

In the chest

in the heart

was the vessel

was the pulse

was the art

was the love

was the clot

small and slow

and the scar

that could not know

the rest of you

was very nearly perfect.

Seeing the eight young students sitting around an oval table, leaning over the sheet of paper with the poems, made me think how they might have leaned over the body at another table some days before. I was struck with the respect, curiosity, and interpretative skills they laid bare when they first talked about the autopsy with the amanuensis – and how the same qualities were present when reading the poems. The shared reading that Katarina did with the young students that afternoon in a seminar room at Forum Medicum illustrated to me the potential of interdisciplinary education. I am thankful for being invited in to see what medical humanities is and what can happen when medicine and literature meet and adds something to one another.

Linda Hamrin Nesby,
UiT the Arctic University of Norway, Tromsᴓ

March 22, 2024

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Premiere for Film@Forum

We have had an intense winter/spring here at the Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities. Those of you who work in academia can guess why. Application deadlines. Despite the fact that we have a generous donation from the Birgit Rausing Foundation for Medical Humanities and an ambitious co-financing from the Faculty of Medicine, we need additional external funding to conduct all the research projects we want. It’s everyday life at a university in Sweden, it’s everyday life for us too.

And imagine when the application is finally submitted and you get to engage in something completely different: Cinema!

On March 5 at 5 p.m., we will host the Faculty of Medicine’s only (?) film club for the first time: Film@Forum – of course in the new fine Forum Medicum. Now both the stairs and the large screen in the Forum foyer will come to good use. We will show “The Children Act” and then hold a subsequent conversation with invited guests. Issues of children’s self-determination in health care, deputyship and somatic compulsory care, and the possibility of refusing life-saving treatment are discussed.

The initiator is Lars Hagander, Professor of Paediatric Surgery and Public Health and co-worker at BRCMH. Also participating are Pia Dellson, physician, poet and film scholar and Elisabet Björklund, associate professor of film studies – both also valued employees at BRCMH.

Read more about the other speakers during the evening, about the film, about how to sign up, and about the fact that you need to bring a pillow to sit on here: Film@Forum: The Children Act | Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities (

Reportedly, Film Forum has already become the “talk of the Faculty“. I’m making an educated guess that it’s not because we’re offering popcorn…
Read the nice article on the Intramed (in Swedish), published today as well (kudos Sofia B Liljedahl): Filmklubbsstart: Världspremiär på storskärm & popcorn, 5 mars i Trappan | Intramed

March 1, 2024

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New training for residents, a course “of the people, by the people, for the people”

We have previously reported on educational initiatives for students in various professional education programmes at Lund University. But we are also working on educational initiatives for current healthcare professionals as well. The latest initiative is an entire course, which is aimed at resident physicians.

Resident physicians need to benefit from different types of professional development, and they are keen to ensure that the competence development they undergo corresponds to the goals established by the National Board of Health and Welfare. One such (sub)goal all residents are subject to, regardless of specialty, is described as follows:

Target a2: Ethics, diversity and equality; The specialist physician shall:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the meaning of medical-ethical principles and be able to identify ethical problems and analyse them in a structured way
  • be able to handle value conflicts in the daily work
  • be able to treat people as individuals and with respect regardless of gender, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation and age

One of our employees at the Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities, Jonatan Wistrand, stated back in 2021 that there were few courses for resident physicians to attend that fulfilled this sub-goal. And he knew what he was talking about, because he himself was just doing his specialist training. What was mainly missing were courses where university-affiliated researchers from different disciplines collaborated with healthcare professionals – an important combination to achieve both clinical anchoring and academic height.

Thus, Jonatan began to talk about creating a course with solid scientific foundation and with authentic examples from healthcare. And he quickly got several directors of studies in Region Skåne on board. My guess is that they prefer to spend competence development funds on initiatives developed at Lund University, by researchers and physicians, with researchers and physicians and for physicians.

Course coordinator Jonatan “packaged” the content and engaged several other employees as teachers: the historian of ideas and science Anna Tunlid, the literary scholar Katarina Bernhardsson, the physician and poet Pia Dellson and the film scholar Elisabeth Björklund.

So – ready to launch? Hardly. It’s one thing to create a really good course, but if no one can find it or can sign up for it, then it’s not exactly a success. Thanks to the Faculty of Medicine’s commissioned education unit, the course got its practical (white?) coat: Budget, website, registration information, premises, refreshments, texts for newsletters – everything fell into place: Course for resident physicians: Ethics, diversity and equality | Faculty of Medicine (

We got as much as 21 registrations – more than we expected being a brand new “training provider”. We both hope and believe that this course will be able to be given to more physicians eventually. Personally, I dream of making a digital version of this initiative, so that other employers in Sweden can offer it to their resident physicians. In due course…

October 5, 2023

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15th anniversary of the course “Medicine as Humanities”

During the past couple of years, the Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities has (co)arranged many different events (see previous blog post about events here): Scientific workshops and conferences within our research theme, Empathy and Compassion, popular science events such as “Kunskapskrogen” and lectures by prominent international stars. We have been responsible for network meetings with and for national, Nordic and Baltic networks in Medical Humanities and arranged meetings, “Afternoon tea”, for staff within the university with an interest in Medical Humanities.

Why have we invested so much time and effort in events? Well, to put the limelight on our centre, which we’re so very proud of, naturally. But also, to use events as a way to find those who share our passion for medical humanities, within and outside the Lund University. New ideas from new contacts have contributed to both energy and concrete collaborations, a genuine sense of positive movement forward.

But we don’t and won’t forget about one of our foundations. On October 3, we will therefore highlight the course “Medicine as Humanities”; It celebrates its 15th anniversary this year! We have therefore invited former students, teachers, and other enthusiasts to a “Medhumeristic” alumni event. The programme (in Swedish, see below) contains flashbacks but also insights into current projects. We will hear voices from alumni about how the course “Medicine as Humanities” has come to influence their lives as professionals and human beings. And there will be plenty of time to reconnect with old acquaintances and, of course, to find new ones.

Responsible for the symposium on October 3 is none other than the professor, the myth, Mr. Medhumeri himself: Anders Palm.

Previous blog posts about alumni-related work within the Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities can be found here and here.

September 13, 2023

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Those of you who work at Lund University (or for that matter at SUS in Lund) have followed the construction of a new building on Sölvegatan. Throughout the building process, the new building has been called ”Forum Medicum” and it plays a central part (!) in gathering the Faculty of Medicine’s functions in Lund in one geographical place. Now the construction is completed, and the grand opening takes place tomorrow evening. From now on we’re supposed to call it BMC Building E.  I’m not sure whether that’ll “stick”; “See you in the foyer of Forum” is a phrase we use almost daily and probably will continue to use…

In any case, Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities, has workplaces on the 14th floor of the new building. Our closest neighbours on this floor are   the Faculty of Medicine’s Centre for Teaching and Learning (MedCul). We’re looking forward to collaborating (more) with MedCul and see how our combined skills and experiences can be put into practice.

The staff at the Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities come from different disciplines/clinical areas and work for the centre part time (20%), which an earlier blogpost revealed here. In total, we are 13 individuals, who have worked together for just over 1.5 years now. This autumn we’ll gather once a week here at Forum Medicum at the 14th floor. There are many projects underway, some to be completed, some to continue in some form, others to start.

I end with the literal outlook from our workplace windows. And no, it is not a coincidence that we who work with medical humanities have a clear view of LUX (one of the beautiful houses belonging to the Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology).

View from the 14th floor, Forum Medicum. To the right is LUX, with the words “Men vänta nu” on the roof.
August 29, 2023

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Time for evaluation

This semester at the Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities has, as usual, been filled with activities within research, collaboration and education. And, as usual, there have been things we didn’t anticipate. The vast majority have been things that we’ve enjoyed, actively. Others – not so much.

One thing we were prepared for was working on our self-evaluation. Yes, it’s already time (according to the Centre’s regulations) to evaluate the Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities. The evaluation/assessment criteria were decided in February, the evaluators were appointed in March, the self-assessment report was ready in April (and we had time to discuss the content with “critical friends” and our employees, which was incredibly valuable), the three evaluators received it on May 5 and they will submit their evaluation to our board at the end of September.

The structure of our self-assessment is based on the assessment criteria (no surprise). The assessment criteria are taken from the Centre’s regulations, and it is also the regulations that form the basis of the Centre’s current plan of operations. We decided to write parts of the report as a follow-up and evaluation of our plan of operations. We knew that we’ve been working well, but I was filled with some sort of inner satisfaction when “checking” one delivery goal after another. And see that we are moving in the right direction given our impact goals.

In a work situation where everything is complex, where shortness of time is ever-present, where the level of ambition is constantly exceeds reality, it’s almost a relief to follow a checklist: tick the box = “done”.

During my 20 years (+) in academia, I have been able to see a huge increase in checklists and systems. Sometimes they are necessary. Sometimes they seem to have emerged as one (1) solution to a problem – check, check, check, good, solved, moving on. But if we don’t allow time for conversation, reflection and listening to input and arguments from several different disciplines, then the problem in its entirety remains unsolved. In our evaluation report, we therefore included “SWOT analyses” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) helping us to navigate (wisely) as a Centre also in future, for example when we compose our next plan of operations or next recruitment plan. Just imagine future operations, including priorities of various kinds, and future recruitments as mere checklists – impossible. Our self-evaluation showed us, without reasonable doubt, that our success depends on that we let authentic interdisciplinary perspectives go into practice.

The blog is taking a summer break now, welcome back at the end of August!

Interpretation of image: Flower bed that did not follow a checklist, but allowed many different seeds to thrive.

June 30, 2023

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The Epione project: Guest blog by Elinor Schad

The frequent headlines about the work situation in health care have not gone unnoticed by the Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities. A few months in as a staff member at the centre, I started planning for a research project to get a deeper understanding of this. We’re now ready to move forward, also since the Swedish Ethical Review Authority gave us the green light.

The questions we’re asking are (among others…): How do newly graduated healthcare professionals perceive the work situation? How does job satisfaction correlate with self-care, empathy fatigue and secondary trauma?

Currently, we are reaching out to graduates from health care programmes (nursing, physiotherapy, audiology, psychology, medical etc.) to be able to follow them in their work and stay in contact over four years. 

Responsible research unit at Lund University is Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities, with centre manager professor Martin Garwicz as contact person:

Principal Investigator:

More about me and previous work on, among other things, compassion fatigue in Lund University’s research portal: Elinor Schad — Lund University

Why Epione?

It’s not the first time I name a research project after a Greek goddess, actually. So I wanted to continue the “tradition”. Epione was my first – and last – choice for this particular project: She was the ancient Greek goddess of soothing of pain and healing.

June 20, 2023

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European University Alliance for Global Health (EUGLOH)

… brings together nine universities from across Europe with outstanding expertise in Global Health. EUGLOH will build the European University of the future.

The EUGLOH consortium members are

  • Université Paris-Saclay (UPSaclay)
  • Lund University (LU)
  • University of Szeged (USZ)
  • University of Porto (UPorto)
  • Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich)
  • University of Alcalá (UAH)
  • UiT The Arctic University of Norway (UiT)
  • University of Novi Sad (UNS)
  • Universität Hamburg (UHH)

EUGLOGH is a part of the European Universities initiative | European Education Area (, The European Comission’s strategic work on higher education, student- and staff mobility etc.

Every time someone says: “EU-initiative” or “EU-project”, a part of me shudders. Not because the idea behind it – I’m proud to call myself a “true European” and the EU has a long-term commitment (followed by actual money) towards higher education issues. Not because of the actual initiatives or projects – often well thought through, relevant and necessary. But because of the process-times. Let’s face it: It takes forever until something can get done. So when “search for collaboration in EU-project”-e-mails and/or newsletters reach me, I open them with a tiny feeling of reluctance. But good thing I do open them.

In summer 2021, a call for collaboration regarding a research project about vaccination reluctance in people who work/will work in healthcare hit my inbox. And I immediately thought of one of our fellows within Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities: Mia-Marie Hammarlin, Senior Lecturer and Researcher: Media and Communication Studies; Journalism; Ethnology.

Two years later, the forwarded e-mail to her has resulted in a thrilling research project “Vaccine hesitancy among healthcare students in Europe”. The project went from a research idea to a research conference in Paris with papers and discussions in March 2023, with Mia-Marie as the first key-note speaker on Difficult Conversations: A Talk on How to Meet Anti-Vaccine Opinions”.

Thanks to the research project, Mia-Marie Hammarlin found collaborations not only in Europe, but also within our own university. The EU brings people closer, that’s for sure.

Next week, Lund University will be hosting the EUGLOH summit 2023 and one of Birgit Rausing Centre of Medical Humanities closest affiliates, Max Liljefors, will be speaking on “ Art and Health”. Let’s hope that medical humanities will be mentioned not only in passing, but as a necessary, strategically important, area for both research and education within the European Union.

June 9, 2023

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Accipe pileum, insigne libertatis!

What a week we have had! As a previous post revealed, professor Rita Charon from Columbia University was appointed Honorary Doctor at the Faculty of Medicine this year:  May we present: A very special honoris causa – Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities (

When we started preparing for her visit to Lund, we focused on the conferment ceremony, the highlight of the academic year in Lund, filled with traditions dating back to the 17th century and symbols dating back to… well, ancient Greece. The whole ceremony (approx. 4 hours long) is held in Latin, in the beautiful, newly renovated, 900-year-old (this year!) cathedral in Lund.

But Rita said: “Put me to work” so – eh – we did. Her programme ended up containing:

and then – the actual conferment ceremony today, which will be followed by the dinner for about 900 guests this evening.

 “What an amazing phenomenon this is”, Rita wrote me yesterday. It is, even for those of us who have experienced conferment ceremony (close up) many times before.

Thanks to Anders Palm, strategically placed in the Dome, we have a lovely picture of Professor Rita Charon walking across the Parnassus, led by the promotor, with hat, diploma and ring!

Vale praeclarissima medicine doctrix Lundensis!

May 26, 2023

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Existential resilience

For several years, Lund University has allocated funds for thematic collaboration initiatives. Researchers within the University apply for these funds, but to qualify for them, you need to provide authentic collaboration with parties from the surrounding society. There is always fierce competition for the thematic collaboration initiative funds. One wonders why… It’s not much money for each initiative and a lot of time and effort goes into the application – not to mention the actual work afterwards.

Is it the idea behind the whole thing? Probably. Broad interdisciplinary collaboration within academia (at least three faculties must be represented) in collaboration with actors with a clear purpose of making a difference in the world – I mean, who wouldn’t want to work with this?!

The Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities plays a part in one of the most recently granted collaborative initiatives: Existential resilience: Contemplation, aesthetics, compassion (ERiCi).  Martin Garwicz, Professor of Integrative Neurophysiology and centre director for BRCMH, is one of three project coordinators. The other two coordinators are Christine Wamsler, Professor of Sustainability Science at the Centre for Sustainability Studies, LUCSUS and Max Liljefors, Professor of Art History and Visual Studies.

The initiative explores the role of contemplation, aesthetics and compassion to counter stress, fragmentation and loss of meaning that underlie today’s societal crises. It involves supporting existential resilience through integrated approaches that link art and health, nature and health, inner change, relationship-building and sustainability across individual, collective and global levels.

The collaborative initiative connects to research being done at the Faculties of Social Sciences, Medicine, Fine and Performing Arts, and the Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology at Lund University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The researchers collaborate with relevant professionals within healthcare, sustainability, schools and higher education institutions.

More about the collaborative initiative in the following article: The inner journey towards a sustainable future | Lund University

May 15, 2023

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