Personal profile


I'm a Health Policy researcher and Senior Lecturer in Health, Science and Society with a background in investigative and broadcast journalism and performing arts. I’m Programme Director for an innovative MSc by Research in Health Humanities and Arts; Associate Director for the Centre for Creative-Relational Inquiry; and Programme Director for the PhD in Health in Social Sciences. 

In 2023, I was Joint Winner of the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry Book Award for Public Health, Humanities and Magical Realism: A Creative-Relational Approach to Researching Human Experience, Routledge - 'paradigm-shifting text that espouses important messages about relationality, research practice, and well-being.'

In 2022, I became a Co-Director for The Binks Hub at the University of Edinburgh. We want to see individuals, communities and academics using creativity and the arts to co-produce research that really makes a difference to people's lives. 

I'm PI on UKRI grants led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for the Collaborative Place-Based Knowledge Exchange project 'Art is Everywhere' and REALITIES tackling health inequalities through community assets.

I’ve led ‘traditional’ public health research using ‘conventional’ approaches and methodologies, as well as creative and arts-informed projects linked to health policy and practice. I was winner of The Health Foundation’s X Factor for Evidence for the Public’s Health in 2018 arguing for arts-based approaches and social connectivity as evidence in health and inequalities. I subsequently published hip-hop in the leading medical journal, The Lancet, which caught the attention of the media and challenged ‘public health elites’ to question traditional forms of evidence. I run a project called Measuring Humanity, funded by the ESCR and NHS amongst others, where I question the very nature of evidence and measurement. 

I’ve also been a keynote speaker at meetings to scale-up implementation of the UN Political Declaration on prevention and control of non-communicable diseases for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO); an advisor and consultant to WHO EMRO; and was part of a team awarded a 2013 Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education Research into the effects of marketing on and the effectiveness of policies designed to protect health by controlling this marketing.

My book Public Health, Humanities and Magical Realism: A Creative-Relational Approach to Researching Human Experience was published by Routledge in July 2022.

In January 2022, I received an AHRC place based collaborative grant putting arts at the helm of multi-sectoral strategic decision making.

In February 2021, I received an International Development Grant for research into health inequalities in Brazil using health humanities and arts-informed approaches. Collaborating with the Emancipation Network, a 14-year old, established social movement working with several Brazilian higher-education institutions; 1,200 volunteer lecturers and InformaSUS, we engaged with more than 15,000 urban, indigenous, rural, anti-racist, feminist and prison population amongst other vulnerable groups. 

My journey so far has been anything but linear. I spent a year in medical school in South Africa (where I was born and bred) before training and working as a performing artist and radio journalist and presenter in London, New York, Los Angeles, Johannesburg, Glasgow and Edinburgh. My MSc in Investigative Journalism focused on health, which led me to a PhD in public health policy with a focus on pharmaceutical regulation.

I got an Impact Fellowship at the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing (ISM), where I started building a research profile in health policy and practice with an interested in inequalities using traditional and innovative methodologies. I’ve worked on and led grants funded by Cancer Research UK, NHS, Public Health England, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, ESRC, Bethany, European Social Fund (via the Scottish Government in collaboration with Bethany), The Conservation Volunteers, ESRC and AHRC amongst others.

My earlier work critically investigated private-sector involvement in policymaking alongside bottom-up community-driven approaches in the policy formation process. I’m interested in bridging top-down and bottom-up approaches to policy and practice. How can community members challenge structural causes of inequality? As individuals are part of the system, how can we change ‘external realities’ through inner change? How can we all take action – through creative non-threatening mediums – to address the challenges of our time? What role are we playing in maintaining or even exacerbating global inequalities?

I’m also interested in the power of pause. The power of self-reflection.

Current PhD and MSc by Research students 

1. ‘Syeda Sidra Idrees (1st supervisor) - My Past was Dark, is my Future Darker?: An art-based inquiry to the experiences of female Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URMs) with Asylum Practices in United Kingdom and Belgium - Fully-funded 4 year joint doctoral programme between the University of Edinburgh and KE Leuven in Belguim  

2. Carlos Leandro Llerena Tolmos (1st supervisor) - A creative-relational study on epistemic-in-justice: how or if collaborative environments in the mental health field bring about genuine change - Fully-funded 4 year joint doctoral programme between the University of Edinburgh and KE Leuven in Belguim  

3. Vennus Ho (1st supervisor) - The spirituality of family caregivers in the wake of loss through expressive arts in Hong Kong: an arts-based ethnography.

4. Emily Hennessy (1st supervisor) - Exploring the uptake of the HPV vaccine within the traveller community to inform public health and social policy. 

5. Romy Goosens (1st supervisor) - Power, Politics and Evidence-Based Policies: A Comparative Case Study of the Use of Evidence in Lockdown Decisions in the UK and New Zealand.

6. Ruth Gailey (1st supervisor) - Lineage of felt: using felt sense to explore (neuro)diverse female experience in affect-ionate spaces”. University of Edinburgh Scholarship.  

7. Louise Prendergast (1st supervisor) - Heal Thyself: Yogic Sleep, Awakenings, and Creative Nonfiction in the Treatment of Trauma. A creative-relational enquiry into self-directed therapeutic practises enabling survivor empowerment.

8. Dima Al Rayes (1st supervisor) - The Link Between Mindfulness and Mental Health, Incorporating Dialectical Behavioural Therapy Mindfulness Skills through the lens of Yogic Practices.

9. Eiko Ishio (1st supervisor) - The influence of the pharmaceutical industry in Japan.

10. Joana Esteves Craveiro de Oliveira (1st supervisor) - How does working with stories help children cope with eco-anxiety?

11. Kata Cots Petit (MScR Health Humanities & Arts) - The Migrating Dancer: Researching Social Justice through Movement-Writing Inquiry as an Affective, Embodied Practice

12. Lucy Campbell (1st supervisor). Doing Time: A Lived Experience Account of Spatio-Hauntology of Prison.

External positions

Consultant and Advisor , WHO, Reg Off Eastern Mediterranean

2015 → …


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