Meet the Norwich doctor whose NHS portraits have gone viral

Doctor Lena Ibrahim of Hethersett with a self-portrait and paintings of her colleagues working at th

Dr Lena Ibrahim of Hethersett with a self-portrait and paintings of her colleagues working at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2022

It is not a job that is known for allowing much free time.

But junior doctor Lena Ibrahim has somehow managed to develop a remarkable sideline as a skilled painter, when not working on the wards.

The 23-year-old, from Hethersett, has been creating portraits of health workers to wind down after stressful shifts at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The University of East Anglia medicine graduate has been gaining plenty of traction online after sharing examples of her work. 

One particular self-portrait showing her drinking a coffee in her uniform has received thousands of comments from people across the world after she painted it for a Royal Society of Portrait Painters' competition.

Doctor Lena Ibrahim's self-portrait of her working at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. P

Dr Lena Ibrahim's self-portrait of her after a busy shift at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital - Credit: Picture: LENA IBRAHIM

Dr Ibrahim said: "That painting is quite ironic as it is rare to have time to relax and have a coffee.

"In recent times the healthcare profession has generally been under so much stress with limited amount of space.

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"There is a lot of pressure on everyone."

One of Doctor Lena Ibrahim's paintings of her colleagues working at the Norfolk and Norwich Universi

One of Dr Lena Ibrahim's paintings of her colleagues working at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. - Credit: Picture: LENA IBRAHIM

The Norwich-born junior doctor discovered her love of oil painting while studying art at Wymondham College. 

She has received messages from her former teachers as well as receiving many requests for commissions after her work went viral.

Dr Ibrahim said: "The teachers really encouraged me and pushed me. They saw my potential.

"I generally enjoy portraiture and painting people from different backgrounds." 

One of Doctor Lena Ibrahim's paintings of her colleagues working at the Norfolk and Norwich Universi

One of Dr Lena Ibrahim's paintings of her colleagues working at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. - Credit: Picture: LENA IBRAHIM

She described her art as being a vital tool for her wellbeing as well as being her hobby. 

"It can be enormously challenging for healthcare workers so it is important to have some form of escapism," Dr Ibrahim said.

Doctor Lena Ibrahim's self-portrait of her working at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. P

Dr Lena Ibrahim's self-portrait - Credit: Picture: LENA IBRAHIM

Her self-portrait for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters' competition took two weeks to paint.

The A4 painting is smaller than what Dr Ibrahim would typically produce but enabled her to manage her busy schedule. 

One of Doctor Lena Ibrahim's paintings of her colleagues working at the Norfolk and Norwich Universi

One of Dr Lena Ibrahim's paintings of her colleagues working at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital - Credit: Picture: LENA IBRAHIM

After graduating from the UEA medical school last year, Dr Ibrahim is currently working on rotation in a different department of the hospital every four months. 

She has painted some of her colleagues at the hospital and her family, embracing her British Iraqi heritage.

Doctor Lena Ibrahim of Hethersett with a self-portrait of her working at the Norfolk and Norwich Uni

Dr Lena Ibrahim of Hethersett with a self-portrait - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2022



PART-TIME PAINTERS 

There have been various household names who have enjoyed dabbling with a paintbrush away from their day job. 

  • Winston Churchill: The wartime prime minister was inspired by the likes of Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, and Paul Cézanne as a keen amateur painter. 
    Winston Churchill painting on a visit to the south of France

    Winston Churchill painting on a visit to the south of France - Credit: The LIFE Picture Collection via

  • Bob Dylan: The singer has found time during his career to keep up his passion for art and staged an exhibition of his drawings in 2018
  • Timothy Spall: The actor has played artists JMW Turner and LS Lowry on the big screen, and has become an accomplished painter himself.  During the pandemic he painted 20 works which were exhibited at the Pontone Gallery in London.
  • Marilyn Monroe: A talented artist, her watercolour painting of a rose for president Kennedy fetched £43,000 at an auction. 
    Marilyn Monroe applies her make-up and Chanel No. 5 perfume in 1955

    Marilyn Monroe applies her make-up and Chanel No. 5 perfume in 1955 - Credit: Ed Feingersh/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

  • Harry Hill: The comedian and amateur artist has had work on display at the Royal Academy’s Summer Show and an exhibition at the Edinburgh Art Festival. 
    Harry Hill

    Harry Hill - Credit: Archant

  • Sylvester Stallone: The Oscar-nominated screenwriter and actor has a love of painting and his work has been exhibited across the globe.
Doctor Lena Ibrahim of Hethersett with a self-portrait and paintings of her colleagues working at th

Dr Lena Ibrahim of Hethersett with a self-portrait and paintings of her colleagues working at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2022

Doctor Lena Ibrahim of Hethersett with a self-portrait of her working at the Norfolk and Norwich Uni

Dr Lena Ibrahim of Hethersett with a self-portrait of her at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2022