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  • Associate Professor
  • The Slade School of Fine Art
  • Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Deborah Padfield is a visual artist specialising in lens-based media and intersectional practice and research within Fine Art and Medicine. She is currently a Lecturer (Teaching) at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL (where she also received her PhD) and Senior Lecturer in Arts & Health Humanities at IMBE, St George’s, University of London.  She has collaborated extensively with clinicians and patients exploring the value of visual images to clinician-patient interactions and the communication of pain. In 2001 her collaboration with Dr Charles Pither at Input Pain Management Unit, St Thomas’ Hospital, led to an Arts Council funded touring exhibition, pilot study and book, Perceptions of Pain.  Her recent collaboration with Professor Joanna Zakrzewska and facial pain clinicians and patients from University College London Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) led to several exhibitions, symposia and an interdisciplinary research project based at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, Pain: speaking the threshold. This allowed her to bring together a distinguished multi-disciplinary team with whom she continues to publish with papers in medhum BMJ, the Lancet , Lancet Haematology and a unique volume, co-edited with facial pain consultant, Prof Joanna Zakrzewska,  Encountering Pain: hearing, seeing, speaking published by UCL Press in February 2021.You can download an electronic pdf of this unique collection of perspectives for free here

She was awarded funding to further develop the work transnationally, collaborating with partners in India on a knowledge exchange project co-creating images reflecting pain patients’ individual experience of pain with colleagues in the UK, Delhi and Mumbai, India and recently received a small grant to further develop collaborations with colleagues at Osaka University, Japan. 

She lectures and exhibits nationally and internationally, most recently in Delhi, India collaborating with Dr Satendra Singh from the University College of Medical Sciences & GTB Hospital, Delhi, the Royal Society of Medicine, London, SEC Glasgow for the BSH Annual Scientific Meeting, the Medical University of Sofia, Bulgaria, Kobe University, Osaka, Japan, the Houston Center for Photography, USA, the 16th World Congress of Anaesthesiologists in Hong Kong and the Wellcome Trust, London and as a visiting lecturer at Universities across the UK. She co-organised the Encountering Pain Conference at University College London (UCL) in 2016, a ground breaking event which brought together leading academics, clinicians, patients and artists to share insights and stimulate discussion on an equal playing field. (See https://www.ucl.ac.uk/encountering-pain) She is the recipient of a number of awards including, Sciart Research Award, UCL Arts in Health Award, the UCL Provosts Award for Public Engagement 2012, British Pain Society Artist of the Year 2012, UCL Public Engagement Beacon Bursary 2015 and winner of the Lancet Highlights photography competition 2017. She is a council member and trustee for the Association of Medical Humanities, UK (AMH).




Research Summary

My research focuses on the role of images and image-making processes to the diagnosis and management of persistent pain. In particular, I argue that photographs can facilitate improved interaction and mutual understanding between patients and clinicians in the pain clinic and between those living with and those witnessing pain.

I have collaborated with leading pain specialists and academics from a range of disciplines and institutions and believe firmly in collaborative approaches to  art making, research and teaching.  My research heavily informs my teaching and emerges from my arts practice, both of which focus on bringing people together with diverse expertise and talents to forge connections, suspend their critical voice towards unfamiliar methodologies and foster new knowledge together. I believe it is only by bringing together different disciplines that we can address many of today’s global health challenges. I also believe that the arts are a vital resource to support & health and wellbeing and am hopeful that their increased use within social prescription will continue to enrich and benefit lives.

I am co-PI on a seed funded collaboration with Osaka University (2021) exploring ways in which the arts and humanities can contribute to Healthcare Education and facilitate improved intercultural understanding in Japan and the UK.

I am also PI on the Visualising pain: towards an international iconography of pain to improve the communication and management of pain in India and the UK (2019) collaborating with Dr Satendra Singh from the University College of Medical Sciences & GTB Hospital, Delhi, India and Dr Mary Wickenden from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. 

I continue to collaborate with the pain: speaking the threshold research team I brought together with Prof Joanna Zakrzewska in 2013.  We continue to co-author and present papers integrating interdisciplinary perspectives on the value of images and image-making processes to the assessment and management of chronic pain. 

In 2016 I co-organised the Encountering Pain Conference at University College London (UCL) in 2016, a ground breaking event which brought together leading academics, clinicians, patients and artists to share insights and stimulate discussion on an equal playing field. We continue to engage with and build this community and have launched an innovative edited volume published by UCL Press in February 2021 arising out of the conference. You can download an electronic pdf of this unique collection of perspectives for free here.

For further collaborative projects such as perceptions of pain and face2face, please see entries on the Slade website, and the following pages on my personal website and research gate pages where projects and publications are listed.



Book: Padfield, D., and Zakrzewska, J.M. (eds.). 2021. Encountering Pain: Hearing, seeing, speaking. London: UCL Press.

Teaching Summary

I am currently a Lecturer (Teaching) in History and Theory of Art at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, where I supervise BA3 independent research projects and some MA dissertations, also providing individual tutorials for students on both the BA and MA programmes, and examining external PhD’s. I designed and taught courses for BA2 Fine Art students.

During my first post at the Slade as an early career interdisciplinary Research Fellow, I co-delivered and co-designed BFA2 Critical Studies courses alongside initiating opportunities for students to engage with their peers from other disciplines across the University. Much of my intersectional research and collaborations feeds into my teaching. I collaborated with Guy Noble, Curator of UCLH Arts & Heritage and Slade colleagues to put on an exhibition of Slade student work in the Hospital Street Gallery at UCLH, worked with the Psychoanalytic Unit, UCL, on several collaborations with Slade students (later expanded to art students across London) responding to research undertaken at the Psychoanalytic Unit, subsequently exhibited at the Freud Museum London and set up a series of workshops at the UCL Pathology Museum, based at the Royal Free Hospital, for Medical Students and Fine Art students to learn alongside each other with an interdisciplinary team of facilitators.  Students from this went onto found their own interdisciplinary network, convening their own interdisciplinary Reforming Anatomy conferences at the Royal Society of Medicine. Within my regular teaching I attempt to bring in facilitators with expertise across a range of disciplines and run creative writing and collaborative drawing workshops. I collaborated with Tomas Kador and Helen Chatterjee to design and draft a new undergraduate module for the BACs programme.

I also work as a Senior Lecturer in Arts & Health Humanities at St George’s, University of London, where I co-teach on a range of SSC’s and arts and humanities offerings within the MBBS and Global Health programmes and am involved in a drive to expand arts and humanities teaching across the University. I am Director of the new extra-curricular programme at St George’s, bringing science, medicine and healthcare into dialogue with the arts, humanities and enterprise. 

I am an independent examiner for Medical Humanities at Imperial College London and a visiting lecturer on Fine Art, Photographic, Community and Socially Engaged Practice, Medical and Medical Humanities Courses across the UK.

Academic Background
2013   Doctor of Philosophy University College London
2001   Bachelor of Arts Middlesex University
1984   Master of Arts University of Edinburgh
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