Hanne Bess Boelsbjerg

Ph.d., Postdoc

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Hanne Bess Boelsbjerg


  • Institut for Klinisk Medicin - Interacting Minds Centre (IMC)
Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4
Aarhus C

E-mail: bess@clin.au.dk

Curriculum Vitae



Hanne Bess Boelsbjerg

Møllegade 16, 3.th

DK-2200 København Ø


Mobile: +45 27 17 15 26

Email: bess@clin.au.dk


Qualifications and Education:


2017:             PhD, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark; dual affiliation; Center for Research in Faith and Health, Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark and Center for Research in Existence and Society, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen. 

Thesis title: In the Closeness of Dying. A Qualitative Study on Christian and Muslim Cancer Patients within Palliative Care. 

Supervisors: Prof. Niels Christian Hvidt, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark; Prof. Tine Tjørnhøj Thomsen, National Institute of Public Health; Peter la Cour (PhD), Mental Health Services, Capital Region of Denmark

2008:             MA, Study of Religion, Aarhus University. 

Thesis title: The Use of Reiki Healing as Religious Coping Strategies by Cancer Patients: An Analysis of Qualitative Interviews from the Perspective of the Study of Religion

Supervisor: Prof. Armin W. Geertz, the Faculty of Theology. 

2005-2006:   Lund University, Faculties of Humanities and Theology, two semesters. 

2001:            BA, the Study of Religion, with minor in Turkish, Aarhus University. 

2001:            Studied Persian, Carsten Niebuhr Institute, Copenhagen University.

1998:            Studied Turkish, Carsten Niebuhr Institute, Copenhagen University.

1995:            Enrolled at Aarhus University, Institute for the Study of Religion.

1994:            Diploma, Grindsted Gymnasium, majors in English, German and Russian.


Positions and Experience:


2019-2021:    Post doc, Interacting Minds Centre, Institute for Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University. Participating in the project “Borderland of Living” funded by the Carlsberg Foundation. 


2015-2019:    Lecturer,Department of Sociology and Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen.  

                      Modules taught: “The Sociology of Aging and Dying”, “Sociology of Health”, “Research Design”, “The Sociology of the Body” and “Complementary and Alternative Medicine”.


2014-2015:    Research assistant, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen in collaboration with Prof. Per Sjøgren, the Palliative Care Unit, University Hospital of Copenhagen.

                      Project: “Cognitive changes and existential values and experiences among cancer patients during palliative care”. 


2014:             Guest researcher, Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College University, London.


2012-2013:     Lecturer in “Existential considerations in palliative care”, Folk University of Aarhus.

2011-2012:     Lecturer in “Psychology of Religion”, the Folk University of Copenhagen.

2007-2009:     Research assistant, Centre for Research in Existence and Society, Copenhagen University. Projects:“The Kinesiological Body” & “Cancer Patients’ Experiences of Reiki Healing”.


Research funding: 

2019:             Research consultant “Empathy and mindfulness training”. The Danielsen Foundation:3.000 €

2017:             Post doc “Cognitive changes and existential values”. The Health Foundation: 26.000 €

2013:             PhD project “Cancer Patients’ Religious Resources”. The Health Foundation: 17.600 €

2012:             PhD project “Cancer Patients’ Religious Resources”. University of Southern Denmark: 68.000 €.

2011:             PhD project “Cancer Patients’ Religious Resources”. The Danish Cancer Society: 57.000 €.

2010:             PhD project “Cancer Patients’ Religious Resources”.The Danish Cancer Society: 66.000 €.



The European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) – Spiritual Task Force: International research network focusing on spiritual care.

Nordic Network for Research in Faith and Health; International and national seminars and meetings of researchers studying the relations between faith and health.

Nordic Network for Narratives in Medicine; Interdisciplinary research network exploring relations between medicine and art with a strong focus on narrativity and the discipline called ‘Narrative medicine’. 

DMCG-Pall KFF; Danish Multidisciplinary Cancer Group - Coordinating Research in Palliative Care. Task force group focusing on establishing national multidisciplinary research on palliation.



  • Danish: mother tongue 
  • English and German: fluent
  • Turkish and Russian: able to converse
  • Farsi and French: elementary 


Selected conference presentations:


2019:              “Death as God’s Shadow. Images of God and Death among Christian and Muslim Cancer Patients”. IAPR Conference “New Trends and Neglected Themes”.International Association of Psychology of Religion; August 31-September 3, Gdansk, Polen.

“’Hvordan var det nu, det var?’ Genfortælling som valideringspraksis”. [How was it actually? Re-telling as a practice of validation]. Nordic Network for the Narratives in Medicine. February 27-28, Oslo, Norway.  

2018:             “Spiritual Concerns among Muslim Cancer Patients in a Secular Society”. EAPC conference “10thWorld Research Congress”.European Association of Palliative Care; May 22-24, Bern, Switzerland.

“Muslim and Christian cancer patients’ need for existential and spiritual care in a secular society”. ECRSH; “Forgiveness in Health, Medicine and Social Sciences”.European Conference on Religion, Spirituality and Health. May 17th-19th, Coventry, England.

“Thinking through narratives. Informing clinical staff about spiritual needs through life stories”. Nordic Network for Narratives in Medicine, March 20-21, University of Lund, Sweden. 

2017:             “Creating Sacred Space. On Chaplaincy on Danish Hospitals”. IAPR Conference Culture, Context and Existential Challenges”. International Association of Psychology of Religion; Hamar, Norway. 

2015:             “Understanding cultural dimensions of spiritual care: A qualitative study of spiritual care

providers in South Africa, Uganda and Denmark”. EAPC conference “Building Bridges”,European Association of Palliative Care; Copenhagen, Denmark.



2019:             “Existential well-being and cognitive dysfunction”. Boelsbjerg HB, Kurita GP, Hansen NV, Sjøgren P. European Association of Palliative Care, EAPC, Berlin, Germany. 

2017:             “Existential suffering and cognitive changes in patients with advanced cancer”. Boelsbjerg HB, Kurita GP, Hansen NV, Sandvad M, Sjøgren P. ESRI Mind & Life Summer Research Seminar; Chimsee am Prien, Germany.

2014:             ”The provision of spiritual care as a universal and cultural practice”. Boelsbjerg, HB, Selman, L, Speck P, Harding R, Higginson IJH, Gysels M.Seminar “Spiritual care in palliative care: recent European research and future developments”,Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College, London.  


Public engagement:

2018: “Kunsten at nærme sig døden”. [The Art to Approach Death]. Planning and participating in the Festivale Resonans for three days with presentations and performances related to the culture and death and dying. Nov., 2018, Copenhagen. http://resonansfestival.dk

Excerpts from the program: Death talks – culture, faith and illness. Presented in collaboration with prof. Morten Sodemann, photographer Klaus Bo, hospital chaplain Lotte Mørk. 

Poems of death. Poetry as a scientific practice. Presented in collaboration with prof. Helle Plough Hansen and PhD, philosopher Jeanette Knox.

Weigth of life:Workshop for dancers and performers held by Dorte Bjerre Jensen and Joe Dumit.




Boelsbjerg, H.B. (2018): “Tro blandt døende – en psykologisk udfordring?” [Faith among the dying – a psychological challenge?”. Omsorg. Tidsskriftet for nordisk palliation,October, 2018.

Holm, V.W. & Boelsbjerg, H.B. (2018). “Sociale medier og eksistentiel lindring”. [Social media and existential relief among young terminal cancer patients]. Omsorg. Tidsskriftet for nordisk palliation,April, 2018.

Boelsbjerg, H.B.(2013). ”‘Det Hellige Rum’. Sjælesorg på hospitaler” [Sacred space: Pastoral care in hospitals]. Tidsskrift for Forskning i Sygdom og Samfund, nr.18, 2013.   

Grünenberg, K., Hillersdal, L. Kjærgaard, H.W., Boelsbjerg, H.B.(2013). ”Doing Wholeness, Producing Subjects. Kinesiological Sensemaking and Energetic Kinship”. Body and Society, March 2013, p.1-28.

Boelsbjerg, H.B. & Baig, N. (2011). ”’Enhver skal smage døden’: Billeder af døden og det evige liv i et muslimsk perspektiv.”[’Every soul shall taste death’. Metaphores on death and eternal life from a Muslim perspective]. Omsorg. Nordisk tidsskrift for palliativ medisin, 2011,1, s. 25-28. 

Boelsbjerg, H.B. (2010). ”Kræftpatienters brug af Reiki-healing som magisk praksis”. [Cancer patients’ use of reiki-healing as magical practice]. Tidsskriftet Antropologi, særnummer ’Magi’, juni, 2010. 


Book chapters 

Blom, K, Wasteson, N. & Boelsbjerg, H.B.(2019). “En smuk sjæl i en sund krop” [A beautiful soul in a healthy body]. In: Glasdam, S. & Boelsbjerg, H.B. (ed.): Folkesundhed – bag om intentioner og strategier.[Public health – behind intentions and strategies].  København: Munksgaard. 

Glasdam, S. & Boelsbjerg, H.B. (2019). “Introduktion” [Introduction]. In: Glasdam, S. & Boelsbjerg, H.B. (ed.):  Folkesundhed – bag om intentioner og strategier. [Public health – behind intentions and strategies]. København: Munksgaard. 

Hendriksen, M.P. &Boelsbjerg, H.B.(2019). “De nationale mål for sundhed – en strategi til normalisering af befolkningen?” [The national goals for health – a strategy for normalizing?] In: Glasdam, S. & Boelsbjerg, H.B. (ed.):  Folkesundhed – bag om intentioner og strategier. [Public health – behind intentions and strategies]. København: Munksgaard.

Dyhr, L. & Boelsbjerg, H.B.(2015). ”Palliation hos patienter med anden etnisk baggrund”[Palliative care of patients of different ethnic backgrounds]. In Palliativ medicin – en lærebog [in Palliative Medicine - A Textbook](ed.) Larsen, H. & Neergaard, M.A. 

Jacobsen, B. & Boelsbjerg, H.B.(2011)“Døden i eksistenspsykologisk belysning”. [Death from an existential psychological view]. Humanistisk palliation : Teori, metode, etik og praksis.København: Hans Reitzel, 2011. s. 93-106. 



Boelsbjerg, H.B.(2018). “At mærke andre – omskæring som identitetsmarkør”. [Touching others. Circumcision as identity marker]. “1. Omtanke. Større end kroppen – omskæring”, Tænketanken Eksistensen, Nov. 2018.

Boelsbjerg, H.B.,Frølund, H. Hoffmann-Petersen, I.T. & Thomsen, K. (2018). ”Hvilket menneske giver vi plads i vores sundhedsvæsen?”. [What kind of human do we give room in our health care system?]. “1. Omtanke. Større end kroppen – omskæring”, Tænketanken Eksistensen, Nov. 2018. 

Boelsbjerg, H.B.(2014). “Tro som støtte under livstruende sygdom”. [Faith as support during life threatening illness]. Psykologisk Set, 94, 2014.

Boelsbjerg, H.B.(2013). Book review of ‘Encounters of Body and Soul in Contemporary Religious Practices: Anthropological Reflections’. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, vol.78, 2013. 

Boelsbjerg, H.B.(2013). ”Hvorfor fortrænger vi døden? Teoretiske refleksioner om angsten for at dø”[Why do we deny death? Theoretical reflections on the fear of dying].Fokus på Kræft og Sygepleje, nr. 1, 2013. 

Boelsbjerg, H.B., Grünenberg, K., Hillersdal, L & Walker, H.K. (2011). ”Kroppen som orakel”. [The body as oracle]. Weekendavisen, 9.12.2011.

Boelsbjerg, H.B., Jacobsen, B. & la Cour, S. (2010). “Samtaler om døden i et eksistenspsykologisk perspektiv” [Conversations on death in an existential psychology perspective]. Fokus på Kræft og Sygepleje, 2010, vol 30, nr. 3, s. 14-17.



Boelsbjerg H.B. (2017). In the closeness of dying. A qualitative study on Christian and Muslim cancer patients within palliative care. PhD thesis, Institute of Health Faculty, University of Southern Denmark, p.450. 

Boelsbjerg H.B.,Speck, P, Hvidt, N.C., Gysels, M., Higginson, I.J., Selman, L. (under revision): “Universal and culturally specific aspects of the provision of spiritual care: A qualitative study of spiritual care providers in South Africa, Uganda and Denmark”. BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care.

Boelsbjerg H.B., Hvidt, N.C., Sodemann, M. (forthcoming). “Existential and spiritual needs among ethnic minority patients in palliative care]. Danish Medical Journal.

Boelsbjerg H.B. & Knox, J.S.L. (forthcoming). “The Flavors of Mortality. Exploring the experience of becoming mortal among people dying or surviving cancer”. Mortality. 

Boelsbjerg H.B.& Glasdam, S. (submitted). “Dying fit or not – Physical activity as antidote to death?”. Omega. Journal of Death and Dying.  


Humanistisk sundhedsforskning, PhD, Forskerskolen i Humanistisk Sundhedsforskning, Syddansk Universitet

22 mar. 201022 jun. 2017

Religionsvidenskab, Cand.mag, Aarhus Universitet

1 sep. 19951 aug. 2008



Institut for Klinisk Medicin - Interacting Minds Centre (IMC)

Aarhus Universitet

Aarhus C, Danmark

5 mar. 2019 → nu

Ekstern lektor

Københavns Universitet

20151 sep. 2020


Sociologisk Institut



Folkeuniversitet, Aarhus



Københavns Folkeuniversitet



Sociologisk Institut



Borderlands of living. Tracing states of (un-)consciousness between the irreversible and the potential

Høybye, M. T., Boelsbjerg, H. B. & Andersen, L. M.


01/04/2019 → …