University of Leicester researcher wins Outstanding Scholar Award
Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 12 March 2012
The Wellcome Trust has announced the first recipients of its Investigator Awards in Medical Humanities, awarded to world-class scholars asking the most important questions at the interface of science, medicine and the humanities.
Professor Mary Dixon-Woods, of the University of Leicester Department of Health Sciences, has received a Senior Investigator award valued in the region of £0.9 million. The Senior Investigator scheme marks a departure away from funding medium-term project and programme grants, which can tie researchers into a cycle of focusing on securing grants rather than tackling major research problems. Professor Dixon-Woods’s work will focus on the ethics of patient safety and quality in healthcare.
She said “This is a wonderful opportunity to ask bold questions and use innovative methods to find answers. Patient safety is a major challenge for health systems: one in 10 patients suffers harm in hospital, and about half of that harm is preventable. Massive variations in the quality of care patients receive are also evident. For example, about 70 feet a week are amputated in England. Most of those can be avoided with the right care of people with diabetes, and some areas do much better than others in providing that care. But intervening to prevent harm or improve quality raises many ethical issues.”
The award will fund Professor Dixon-Woods’s team in the SAPPHIRE (Social science APPlied to Healthcare Improve Research) group to carry out research into just those issues.
She said “Health systems are faced with many challenges when they try to improve care. For example: Is it right to restrain patients to prevent them from falling? Should we criminalise practitioners who do not comply with infection control procedures? How do we draw the boundaries of professional responsibility and organisational responsibility for providing safe, quality care? Is it right to use targets if we know they encourage gaming or distract staff from activities that are more valuable but less easy to measure? These questions – and others like them - need high quality social science research and ethical analysis to help answer them. That is what my programme of work sets out to do. Along the way, I will engage widely with the public, with healthcare professionals, and with those running health systems, and I will work with a network of international collaborators”.
Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "We received a very high quality of applications for the new Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards in Medical Humanities and are delighted to be able to support such outstanding scholars across a wide range of research topics. The awards will provide flexible support to researchers across a broad range of institutions, allowing them to explore challenging questions in both ethics and medical history in its historical and cultural contexts."
The Investigator Awards in Medical Humanities cover medical history and humanities, and ethics and society, enabling scholars to pursue individual, bold visions with greater flexibility. The awards, which range from £700 000 to just over £1.26 million for up to five years, are made to scholars in established academic posts depending on their career history, ambition and vision and the resources required to realise this vision. The scheme builds on moves by the Wellcome Trust towards more expansive, longer-term research in the medical humanities.
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.