PhD Studentship: The Role of Science Communication in Clinical Encounters Relating to Lyme Disease

University of the Highlands and Islands - Rural Health and Wellbeing, Division of Health Research

Location: Inverness
Funding for: UK, EU & International students
Funding amount: UK/EU fees & stipend (RCUK rate) for 42 months
Hours: Full time
Closes: 8th May 2017, 12pm (UK time)

Rates of tick-borne Lyme disease have been increasing in the United Kingdom (UK) over the past two decades (Dubrey at. Al., 2014).  The average annual incidence of Lyme disease in Highland region, for example, was estimated to be 44.1 per 100,000 of the population (Mavin et al, 2015), which is the highest incidence recorded in Scotland. 

The risks of acquiring a tick bite, and subsequent Lyme disease are much higher in areas of natural or rural landscape. There has been increasing public awareness of Lyme disease, and its transmission through tick bites, in recent years. Lyme disease has been discussed within the popular media and there are numerous sources of information available online.

Research is needed to understand the ways in which prominent contemporary discourses construct behaviours that may support or hinder the clinical encounter between those presenting symptoms of Lyme and their GPs (Morton et. al., 2016).

This PhD studentship will investigate the following questions 

  • What are the dominant narratives within contemporary British media relating to ticks and Lyme?
  • How do these narratives contribute to the construction of behaviours relating to the presentation, diagnosis and treatment of symptoms?

The methodology will be developed by the student in consultation with supervisors. It is anticipated that discourse and/or mixed method content analysis will be used in analysis of contemporary media sources. It is likely that this will need to be complemented by qualitative work involving interviewing with General Practitioners working in both rural and urban settings.  The interviews will focus on how the GPs believe dominant discourses influence patient behaviour and how this compares to best practice clinical guidance. The interviews will also ask GPs about which sources of information they utilise in relation to ticks and Lyme. There may also be the opportunity to include audience reception interviewing with who have attended primary care with symptoms of Lyme disease. By understanding the influences on patient behaviour and the clinical encounter, more effective communication strategies can be devised.

The student will be supervised by Dr. Sarah-Anne Munoz, Senior Lecturer in Rural Health and Wellbeing at UHI and Dr. Amy Nimegeer of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Dr. Issie MacPhail, Research Fellow in Rural Health and Wellbeing at UHI will be the third supervisor.

To apply:

Click on the “Apply” button below to download the application form and guidance and return to:

Informal project specific enquiries can be made to:

Funding notes:

This studentship is funded by the European Social Fund and Scottish Funding Council as part of Developing Scotland’s Workforce in the Scotland 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.

The studentship covers fees at the Home/EU rate only, plus a stipend at the RCUK level, for a total of 42 months (including writing-up).

PLEASE NOTE: Funding is available for students worldwide, however non UK/EU students will be liable for the difference between home/EU and international fees.

Students must be domiciled in the Highlands and Islands transition region during the course of their study to be eligible for funding.

Applicants must possess a minimum of an Honours degree at 2:1 and/or a Masters Degree (or International equivalent) in a relevant subject.

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