The Harris Fellowship is a small one-year student fellowship fully funded by the Harold and Gwynneth Harris Endowment for the Medical Humanities. In 2017, the Fellowship was open to all University of Sydney students in any faculty, at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, for any project where the creative arts intersect with health and the humanities. To be eligible for the Fellowship, the proposed project had to be outside of the students’ study and work commitments, and outside of core academic business for which funds can reasonably be found elsewhere. Ten applicants from a high-quality pool of 36 were awarded. Nine Fellows presented their results in a showcase event in November 2018.

The following summarises the Harris Fellows’ project outcomes:

Stephanie Mantilla – 4th year undergraduate student at the Department of Media and Communications
Why you should believe my pain, multi-media web-feature featuring people with invisible disability experience of the medical system
An impressive documentary style web-presentation of the difficulties experienced by patients within the health system who do not have an obvious disability or ‘lesion’ (an invisible disability). This multimedia web feature aims to raise awareness, in an accessible manner, of an issue that some people with invisible disability face of not having their symptoms and pain believed before being diagnosed with disability. At its core, this project aims to be a critique of the medical system, in particular of how some GPs do not believe some people’s pain despite it being real. It aims to fuse academic research and news writing to offer insight into why this may be occurring and offer a recommendation of how to improve the GP practice. Stephanie’s work can be found at

Rachel Famularo – 1st year undergraduate student at the Sydney Nursing School
Handover – An exchange of critical information and nursing responsibility, photographic collection reflecting the rural nurse experience
The aims of this project were to create an artwork that reflects the remote nurse experience, to expose the unique challenges and benefits of remote nursing, to give much needed recognition to the nursing profession and to diminish the skewed stereotypes and sexualised connotations still associated with nursing today. Rachel’s hope is that this artwork will encourage a future generation of culturally safe, holistic and enthusiastic nurses. ‘Handover’ highlights that it takes something special to be a nurse and that it takes something extraordinary to be a remote nurse. The four nurses included in this artwork hand over extraordinary stories of their lives, careers and experiences in Nhulunbuy, a remote community in Arnhem Land. Each photograph is accompanied by a background story presented in the well-recognised format of a traditional nurse’s handover sheet. The result is a very ‘professional’ exceptional folio of works, which gives the viewer a deep sense of life in this community.

Anna Maria D’Addario – Final year Masters student at the Sydney College of the Arts
Farewell Angelina, solo exhibition of the bookwork with the same title
This exhibition is a deeply moving work, which tells the story of a very traumatic episode in the life of the author in pictorial format in which the viewer/audience is invited into this very personal tragedy. The photographs express the feelings of trauma, loss and grief. A selection of these stunning photographs will be displayed at the Art Gallery, Ballarat, Echoes, until 10th March 2018.

Rachel Dubretsky – 2nd year undergraduate student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Ensemble MUSE performing an interactive concert for a retirement home
Ensemble MUSE is a group of 8 young women from the Conservatorium who play music inspired by art, poetry, and prose, predominately that of female and minority composers. This group carefully planned, rehearsed and performed a free 45-minute concert for a Retirement Village. The objective for this concert was to tackle loneliness in nursing homes and create community between both the younger generations and elderly people, as well as a sense of belonging within the nursing home. The concert was held in September 2018 at the Landsdowne Gardens, an aged care facility in North Sydney. The musical pieces chose were fun, often familiar, and clearly a great hit with the audience. It was obvious that there was a very warm interaction between the performers and their audience. The group plans to extend their performances to other venues.

Merilla Babu John – Stage 2 medical student at the Sydney Medical School
Series of poems on the hospital experience
Merilla’s poems tackled a wide range of patient interactions that she had experienced as a medical student. Not only did Merilla compose her own poetry, she encouraged other to do likewise and started a ‘Poetry Club’ at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown, Sydney. It was clear that this was an exceptional way to ‘open up’ on many issues which are not often verbalised in other settings. The ultimate goal of this project was to create a chapbook of poems for potential publication, or less formally, published as what is now colloquially known as a ‘zine’.

Benjamin Stewart – Stage 1 medical student at the Sydney Medical School
Models of Health and the World Trade Organisation – an academic essay
Benjamin used the Ebola crisis of 2013-2016 to focus on how a non-health agency such as the World Trade Organisation considered such health issues. The aim of the project was to challenge the neglect of higher-level social and political forces in mainstream epidemiology and to show the benefits of ‘looking beyond the square’ for health professionals, managers and policy makers. How trade affects health, regulates the accessibility and regulation of food and drugs as well as the issues of global inequality and poverty, and the relative silence on these issues by such authorities, although their impact is significant.

Isabel Hanson – Stage 1 medical student at the Sydney Medical School
‘Healing Alone’, A web-comic exploring the perspectives of patients and doctors
Healing Alone is an illustrated comic about the hospital system and how it alienates both patients and doctors. The narrative is based on an interaction between Grace, a junior doctor and Sameer, a patient with Crohn’s disease. In the comic, Grace struggles show compassion and uphold her values in an institutional environment that obstructs meaningful connection. Collaborating closely with artist and academic Safdar Ahmed, Isabel constructed a narrative over 12 months that reflects their collective experiences within the healthcare system. The process of script writing and character development drew heavily from her personal experience as a medical doctor and Safdar’s experience as a patient, as well as stories shared with us by people working within and interacting with the healthcare system. The academic literature on healthcare culture, patient experience, and doctor burn out helped to ground Healing Alone in the collective and unfortunately common experience of doctors and patients.
Isabel’s work can be found on her illustrator’s (Safdar Ahmed’s) website. It has recently been published by The Guardian; further publication of the comic on platforms such as The Nib, The Rumpus, Gravel, ABC and SBS online is being pursued.

Kirsten Carlaw – Stage 2 medical student at the Sydney Medical School
Ten creative essays outlining different patient experiences in hospital
This project’s aim was to write 10 creative essays on the experiences of patients during their stay in hospital. The essays were based on semi-structured interviews that Kirsten conducted with patients who she encountered in the course of her medical studies. Each patient was asked a standard set of questions regarding demographic factors as well as questions pertaining to positive aspects of their care, conduct of medical professionals and improvements to be made in the delivery of their care. The essays were based on the participants’ responses, complemented by the author’s interpretation coming from a medical background. Participants included a wide variety of patients which ranged from someone experiencing their first hospital visit, a well-seasoned veteran, a patient who had suffered a stroke who was unable to communicate. It was clear from the presentation that Kirsten had learnt much more than might be gleaned from a standard medical tutorial.

Aran Kanagaratnam and Akhil Bansal – Stage 1 medical student at the Sydney Medical School
The Art of Medicine, a podcast series
Aran and Akhil set out to demonstrate in a series of podcasts how different disciplines can inform and enhance our practice of medicine. Episode 1, Dr Ranjana Srivastava, author of Dying for a chat – Writing and Medicine (currently available – Art of Medicine series). Future podcasts will include how Medicine intersects with the Theatre, Law and Architecture.

Kathryn Doherty – 1st year undergraduate student at the Sydney Nursing School
Seeing and Feeling: Better Nursing Practice Through Art, a guide for students and teachers
This project explored what first year nursing students could learn from the visual arts in terms of practical skills and the development of empathy, informed by a participant-observer perspective. The resulting essay is a resource accessible to students and teachers interested in these ideas. Expert assistance in finding artists dealing with health-related issues was given by Caitlin Casey. Expert assistance from teacher and gallery guide Margaret Cunningham culminated in the development of the lesson plan attached to the essay. The three artworks chosen for use from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales were decided on collaboratively as useful for the VTS process as well as relevant to nursing.

Posted by Dr Claire Hooker, Senior Lecturer, Health and Medical Humanities; Director, Bioethics program, Sydney Health Ethics, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney