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Observations BMJ Confidential

Femi Oyebode: Poetry in medicine

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 24 May 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2452


Femi Oyebode is professor of psychiatry at Birmingham University and a published poet. He studied medicine at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and came to the UK in 1979, completing his higher training at Newcastle. He chose psychiatry because it is the medical discipline that comes closest to the humanities, he says, requiring “thinking, listening to people, and a degree of wisdom.” A would-be writer, he was cajoled into medicine by his father and has successfully combined poetry and psychiatry: he is author of Sims’ Symptoms in the Mind (5th edition) and seven books of poetry, including Master of the Leopard Hunt (1996). In 2016 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be a writer, a poet. I’ve managed to combine a career in medicine with writing, even though the writing has had to take a back seat. You could say that I’m the opposite of Chekhov, who also managed to combine medicine and literature—but in his case medicine took …

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