Ann McPherson Memorial Lectures

Ann McPherson, HEXIThe Ann McPherson Memorial Lectures celebrate the late Dr Ann McPherson, former Green Templeton College Fellow and the driving force behind the foundation of work on health experiences.

Each lecture highlights Ann’s academic and professional achievements and legacy by focusing on an area within her broad range of interests.

Upcoming lectures

Clinicians as Advocates – Is speaking out a core duty of a doctor?

Dr Rachel Clarke, Thursday 7 December 2023

Rachel is an NHS palliative care doctor and the author of three Sunday Times bestselling non-fiction books about medicine. Inspired by a visit to Ukraine during the conflict in late 2022, she recently founded a registered charity, Hospice Ukraine, supporting the work of palliative care teams in Ukraine.

Past lectures include

From cottage industry to digital revolution. My time in general practice

Dame Clare Gerada, Tuesday 22 November 2022

Royal College of General Practitioners President Dame Clare Gerada gave a wide-ranging lecture.

Whose story is it?

Philip Pullman, Wednesday 5 May 2021

Novelist Philip Pullman discussed the place that storytelling has in our lives, with particular reference to the work done by Ann McPherson and others in paying proper attention to the stories and experiences of patients. What is the function of storytelling? Is it essential, or is it trivial? How can we help it happen, and understand what’s going on when it does? He looked at fictional stories (stories about storytelling) as well as depending on his own experience as a storyteller.

Watch Philip Pullman’s talk:

The final freedom: a right to die

Polly Toynbee, October 2018

Polly Toynbee, the renowned Guardian commentator, argued that the religious are denying the will of the people to depart in peace at a time of their choosing, a discussion on the timely topic of dignity in dying.

Polly is a Guardian commentator and former BBC Social Affairs Editor. She is vice president of Humanists UK, Chair of the Brighton Dome Festival and a trustee of Political Quarterly. She is author of numerous books including The Verdict: Did Labour Change Britain?Unjust Rewards, and Dismembered: How the Attack on the State Harms Us All.

A glass half full

Clare Marx, November 2017

Clare Marx had finished a three-year term as President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the first woman to have held the post in their 207 year history. During that time she was credited with changing the culture of the organisation to concentrate on a focus of excellence in patient care, even when that meant challenging the profession to change. Both internally and externally she championed and encouraged clinical leadership, in particular the need for women to step into such roles.

The world of medicine has changed slowly for women in the profession and there remain challenges to overcome. Clare Marx’s lecture explored this history with a focus on institutional and personal challenges.

Socialising the genome

Dr Anna Middleton, October 2016

Dr Anna Middleton has had two parallel careers – the first as a practicing genetic counsellor, the second as a social scientist exploring the impact of genetic technology on people. She currently works at the Wellcome Genome Campus in Cambridge, UK leading the social sciences research as Head of Society and Ethics.

Anna discussed her research and endeavors to turn genomics from (what is for many) an anti-social concept (‘I won’t understand it’, ‘I didn’t do science at school’) to a more social concept. She has explored her work with advertising experts, to create a series of evidence-based animations to explore different ways to help the general public start conversations about genetics (e.g. trying out socially acceptable words like ‘glitch’ in replacement for ‘variant’).

She also discussed and shared the films she created to bring the public to her research about DNA and Big Data. Being able to contribute to current discussions about genomics requires researchers to make the dialogue accessible, even using the simplest of genomics terminology has the capacity to alienate the very people they want to engage. ‘Socialising the Genome’ is a frame of mind that permeates Anna’s approach to research, it is grounded in her clinical experience of working directly with families in the NHS as a genetic counsellor.

Voices of experience: reflections on four decades of women’s health research

Professor Ann Oakley, May 2015

Women’s health and illness used to be studied without much reference to the experiences of women themselves. ‘Voices of experience’ focuses on some manifestations of changes in this perspective since the 1960s. It takes a personal journey through her own involvement in research on miscarriage, childbirth, contraception, motherhood and housework, noting the importance of both conceptual shifts and developments in social science methodology.

Ann Oakley is Professor of Sociology and social policy at the UCL Institute of Education where she founded the Social Science Research Unit and the EPPI-Centre, which conducts public policy systematic reviews. She has worked in academic research for 50 years, publishing many books and papers on gender, health, the position of women, the history of social science, and methodology and social policy.

Adolescent behaviours – learning from experimentation – a risky business?

Dr Aidan McFarlane, April 2014

This talk was given by Dr Aidan McFarlane, independent international consultant in child and adolescent health. There have been a number of major developments in the field of adolescent behaviour during the last five years.  Included are (1) the development of brain imaging techniques which give us unprecedented access to changes in the adolescent brain (2) a change in the paradigm of what we mean by ‘adolescent risk taking behaviour’ (3) a new understanding as to how most human behaviours can be seen as carrying a risk at all ages.

As intriguing as these changes, is the digital milieu to which the contemporary adolescent ( and ourselves) have access. A milieu that provides a vast new set of tools with which to explore,  experiment and learn from. Discussion centred on – given these changes – how do we best encourage, support and protect the necessary experimentation and exploration by young people as they learn.

Illness narratives: phenomenological and cross-cultural perspectives

Professor Trish Greenhalgh, May 2013

This lecture worked through an exploration of the academic basis of narrative medicine, an interdisciplinary field of study that draws on literature and drama, philosophy (particularly phenomenology), anthropology, sociology and technology studies. The last of these may appear incongruous, since technology is often placed in opposition to the subjective and deeply personal art of narrative. But this is a false dichotomy, since technologies can support communication, storytelling and living with illness. They can (potentially) augment the failing body and delay the shrinking of physical and cultural horizons that so often accompanies ageing and multi-morbidity. That they rarely do so in practice is, arguably, because they have been designed with insufficient attention to the lived body and the illness narrative.  Professor Greenhalgh drew particularly on the phenomenological work of Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger and illustrated her talk with empirical examples from new research on technology-assisted living.

Hearing the patients’ voices in a changing NHS

Dr Clare Gerada, May 2012

This event was a ‘Celebration of Ann’s Achievements’ with a one-day conference at St John’s College, University of Oxford. In the video below, you can view highlights from the event.

The second YouTube video below shows the complete keynote lecture from Dr Clare Gerada which was themed: Hearing the Patient’s Voice in a changing NHS.

In addition to the keynote:

  • Sir Iain Chalmers spoke on ‘Promoting public understanding of health research’
  • Dr John Coleman talked about Young People’s Health.
  • Professor Joe Collier talked about ‘setting up Health Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD)
  • Sue Ziebland discussed Ann’s work with DIPEx and the Health Experiences Institute (HEXI)
  • Dr Lisa Hinton presented her work on two new Healthtalkonline websites on Experiences of infertility and Experiences of traumatic birth.


Naomi Benson, Academic Projects Manager