Postgraduate study in the Health Professions Education Unit

We welcome enquiries to study with us. We provide a supportive and collaborative research environment, where we strive to create and disseminate innovative approaches to learning and teaching.

PhD and MD opportunities

We encourage self-funded PhD, MD and sponsored student proposals addressing key healthcare workforce and clinical education issues. Topics may include (but not exhaustive): selection and recruitment, professionalism, workplace-based learning, diversity and inclusion, widening participation, career transitions and trajectories, longitudinal integrated clerkships, assessment tools and conscientiousness index, international migration and clinical academic careers.

We offer supervision and training in advanced qualitative and quantitative methods, including realist approaches to evaluation and systematic literature reviews. Supervision can be face to face or online distance.

Potential supervisors include: Paul Crampton, Paul Tiffin, Millie Kehoe, Lewis Paton, Lucy Ambrose, Dilmini Karunaratne, Amaya Ellawala, Peter Bazira, Marina Sawdon, Jason Boland, Bill Laughey. Please see our staff profiles for expertise and contact details.

We have a vibrant research community within the Health Professions Education Unit including a number of students working towards their PhDs and MDs.

Funded PhDs, when available, are listed on the Hull York Medical School's funded opportunities page. 

We also work with suitable students to support applications for national or regional PhD funding.. Please email to enquire further.

Find out more about PhD in Medical or Human Sciences or the MD in Medical Sciences.

How to apply

To apply, please submit an online application on the University of York website.

You don’t need to complete your application all at once; you can start it, save it and finish it later.

Apply for a PhD in Medical Sciences (Health Professions Education)

Apply for the MD in Medical Sciences (Health Professions Education) 

Current PhD students and projects
Lauren Aylott

Title: Defining and measuring professionalism in Mental Health Staff: A mixed methods approach
Award: PhD
Funder: Hull York Medical School scholarship
Supervisors: Professor Gabrielle Finn and Dr Paul Tiffin
Contact for further details: Lauren Aylott

Lauren’s PhD aims to develop a situational judgement test that will assess practitioners’ knowledge of professionalism within a mental health service context. This will support a values-based recruitment approach; recruiting staff with the right values, as well as knowledge and skills for the role.

Situational Judgement tests have been used for many years to support the recruitment of staff. A situational judgement test in this context, will present test-takers with job-related hypothetical scenarios, to which individuals will need to select the most appropriate behaviour out of a list of potential response options.


Aylott, L.M., Tiffin, P.A., Saad, M., Llewellyn, A.R. and Finn, G.M., 2018. Defining professionalism for mental health services: a rapid systematic review. Journal of Mental Health, pp.1-18.

Dr Kishan Rees

Title: What is the impact of, and interplay between, social & mainstream media on global public health communication during a pandemic?

Timeframe: 2020-2024

Funder: Hull York Medical School

Contact for more information: Dr Kishan Rees

This project seeks to explore what impact the interplay between social and mainstream media has on the mass communication of public health messaging during a pandemic. What elements help a public health response and what elements hinder it. What are the salient points of what went well? What aspects need further consideration and refinement? It is hoped that this thesis will contribute to the literature, so that when it comes to communicating the public health issues pertaining to the next pandemic, healthcare professionals will be in a better place to utilise the tools available for mass communication and members of the public will be in a better position to comprehend, assimilate and apply such information so they can make decisions that are in their best interests.

Completed PhD students
Dr Megan Brown

Title: Performing Identity within Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships

Timeframe: 2018-2022

Funder: Hull York Medical School

Contact for more information: Dr Megan Brown 

This international, longitudinal qualitative programme of study is concerned with investigating how medical students construct and perform medical professional identities during different longitudinal clinical education programmes worldwide. Through expanding what is known in regard to identity development and the impact of longitudinal placements, we hope this research will assist educators and educational leaders in developing pedagogy which effectively supports identity development.


Brown, M. E., Ard, C., Adams, J., O’Regan, A., & Finn, G. M. (2022). Medical Student Identity Construction Within Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships: An International, Longitudinal Qualitative Study. Academic Medicine, 10-1097.

Brown, M.E., Whybrow, P., Kirwan, G. and Finn, G.M., 2021. Professional Identity Formation within Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships: A Scoping Review. Medical Education, 55(8), 912-924.

Brown, M.E., Finn, G.M., 2021. When I say... socialisation. Medical Education.

Brown, M.E., Anderson, K. and Finn, G.M., 2019. A narrative literature review considering the development and implementation of Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships, including a practical guide for application. Journal of medical education and curricular development, 6, p.2382120519849409.

Brown, M.E., Crampton, P.E., Anderson, K. and Finn, G.M., 2020. Not all who wander are lost: evaluation of the Hull York medical school longitudinal integrated clerkship. Education for Primary Care, pp.1-9.

EL. Brown, M., Parekh, R., Anderson, K., Mayat, N., & McKeown, A. (2022). ‘It was the worst possible timing’: the response of UK Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships to Covid-19. Education for Primary Care, 1-8.

Dr Angelique Dueñas

Title: An assessment of Gateway Year programmes in the UK
Start date: October 2018 (PhD)
Funder: Hull York Medical School
Supervisors: Professor Gabrielle Finn and Dr Paul Tiffin
Contact for further details: Angelique Dueñas

This study aims to provide an assessment of the current state of Gateway programmes across the nation to help understand best practices for success of Gateway Year programmes.

In the past few years there has been a rapid increase in the number of Gateway to Medicine programmes across the UK, rising from only 7 recognized programmes in 2017 to a total of 17 planned to launch in 2019. However, there is currently very limited research about academic progression of Gateway Year students through their medical education. This study aims to provide an assessment of the current state of Gateway Year programmes across the nation to help understand best practices for success of Gateway Year programmes.


Duenas, A (2021). Outreach, Selection, Retention: A Critical Examination of Widening Participation Mechanisms in UK Medical Education. PhD thesis. Available at:

Dueñas, A. N., Tiffin, P. A., & Finn, G. M. (2021). Understanding gateway to medicine programmes. The clinical teacher, 18(5), 558-564.

Dr Andrew Durnin

Title: The Effect of Head-Mounted Display Virtual Reality on Working Memory and Cognitive Load

Supervisors: Dr Aziz Asghar, Dr Anthony Bateson

Timeframe: October 2018-March 2022

Contact for more information: Dr Adam Durnin

The increased accessibility of Head-Mounted Display Virtual Reality (HMD-VR) devices has led to wide adoption of the technology in work, learning, and personal contexts. These devices can provide fully immersive experiences outside of simple entertainment, for example allowing people to attend lectures or meetings from the comfort of their own home, undergo training courses with experts from around the globe, and explore recreations of historical events or impossible scenarios. This, coupled with the increased focus on out-of-office jobs and learning from home, places HMD-VR at an opportune position to facilitate the future of how humans work and study. 
However, there is much about this technology that is not understood, including exactly if and how using HMD-VR benefits learning processes. As such, this research aims to increase this knowledge through exploring how HMD-VR influences various working memory processes, alone and in comparison with other presentation methods. This includes manipulation of experienced working memory load within HMD-VR during an arithmetic task, and experienced load during a maze learning/navigation task in comparison with more commonly used desktop-based computers.

Dr Bill Laughey

Title: Empathy
Award: PhD by publication
Start date: January 2018
Supervisor: Professor Gabrielle Finn
Contact for further details: Dr Bill Laughey

Empathy is valued in clinical care but remains under-researched, especially in qualitative terms. This research aims at gaining a clearer understanding of what clinical empathy is and how it should (and should not) be taught.

Doctors for many years thought empathy should be cognitive – if it came from the head there was little chance it could cloud logical decision making. More recently, researchers have questioned whether empathy without feeling is any kind of empathy at all. We need to better understand what students and educators think that empathy is, and how it can best be expressed in clinical care. Our qualitative research at Hull York Medical School is exploring these very questions. 

Dr Alexandra Macnamara

Title: Non-integrated prescribing teaching hinders acquisition of prescribing knowledge and skills in medical students
Award: MD
Supervisors: Professor Thozhukat Sathyapalan and Dr David Hepburn
Contact for further details: Dr Alexandra Macnamara

This project aims to evaluate the way in which prescribing teaching is taught in UK medical schools by looking at whether students feel ready to prescribe medications in practice and compare different ways of teaching different aspects of prescribing. 

The aims of this project are:

  • To evaluate student attitudes of how well prepared they feel for prescribing in practice and towards their current pharmacology curriculum.
  • To compare different teaching methodologies in the teaching of clinical pharmacology in terms of acquisition and retention of clinical pharmacology knowledge.
Dr Usmaan Omer

Title of Project: An Appraisal of UK Non-Medical Prescribing (NMP) Programmes and their Role in producing high-level prescribers
Timeframe: 2019-22
Contact: Dr Usmaan Omer


This study aims to utilise a holistic range of guidelines, national and international, to define the qualities of a good prescriber. Subsequently, this information will be used to investigate and appraise the teaching approaches implemented by non-medical prescribing programmes in order to cultivate these qualities. This will be achieved through mapping curriculum documents to prescribing guidelines, telephonically interviewing Non-Medical Prescribing programme directors and Designated Medical Practitioners (DMPs). After this, think-aloud prescribing practice exercises will be conducted with NMP students using clinical vignettes.


Omer, U. (2022). Appraising the curricula of uk non-medical prescribing Programmes and its role in producing high-level Independent prescribers. PhD thesis. Available from:

Omer, U., Danopoulos, E., Veysey, M., Crampton, P., & Finn, G. (2020). A Rapid Review of Prescribing Education Interventions. Medical Science Educator, 1-17.

Omer, U., Veysey, M., Crampton, P., & Finn, G. (2021). What makes a model prescriber? A documentary analysis. Medical Teacher43(2), 198-207. 


PG Cert, PG Dip, and PG MSc in Health Professions Education

Our Health Professions Education programme is designed to give you the skills needed to be an excellent educator. Our programme is accredited by the Academy of Medical Educators and Advance HE.

Opportunities for current Medicine students

  • Scholarship and Special Interest Programmes: We have a number of students at the Health Professions Education Unit working on Phase 2 Scholarship and Special Interest Programmes (SSIPs).
  • INSPIRE: We have had a number of students at the Health Professions Education Unit working on INSPIRE projects.
  • Intercalated MSc: Dissertations or other research may be undertaken with us, if you have a relevant research interest. Please note we do not have specific funding available, as this is usually sought on a case-by-case basis. The full time MSc is eligible for a government postgraduate loan. Please visit the intercalation web page for details about intercalating at Hull York Medical School.
  • Elective opportunities: Electives may be undertaken with us, if you have a relevant research interest.

Please email to enquire about any of the above opportunities.

Other opportunities

Please email you would like to enquire about other opportunities to study with us. Further information is also available on our visit with us page, if you are interested in short-term visits or attachments.