PEOPLE – Directors

Des Fitzgerald

22 April 2020

Des Fitzgerald, a sociologist of science and medicine, will also join us on 1st March 2020, as Associate Professor of Sociology, having been at Cardiff University since 2015. His work has focused on space, environment and mental health; he won the Philip Leverhulme Prize for sociology in 2017, and the research from this focuses on the use of psychological and neurobiological knowledge in architecture and city planning.. His most recent publication was titled “Mental health, migration and the megacity” and examined ‘results and perspectives from an in-progress international and interdisciplinary collaboration investigating the mental health of rural–urban migrant communities in contemporary megacities’.

PEOPLE – Directors

Judith Green

22 April 2020

Professor Green joins the Centre as Professor of Sociology from King’s College London, where she has been a professor of Sociology of Health since 2016. Her career has seen her work to bridge the gap between medical research and sociological research, and lately she has been focusing on mobility, transport systems & health; questions of how evidence travels from one setting to another; methodological development; and health professions. Her work most recently has focused on how telematics are used to mitigate public health disadvantages of heavy car usage.

PEOPLE – Directors

Felicity Thomas

25 June 2019


I graduated from University College London with a BA (Hons) in Anthropology and Geography, and then spent several years working in the international NGO sector, focusing on educational provision and development in post-conflict states within sub-Saharan Africa. I returned to academia to undertake a PhD on the impacts of HIV and AIDS on rural livelihoods in Namibia.

Drawing on a cross-disciplinary background spanning anthropology, public health, education and geography, I lead a programme of research that examines how lived experiences of health inequalities can inform the development of effective clinical practice and applied health and social policy.

My work has focused around the mental health and wellbeing of low-income communities in the UK (see and in Central and Eastern Europe; early life trauma; migrant health; sexual health; and the promotion of young people’s health and wellbeing. Using narrative, ethnographic and participatory approaches, my work seeks to provide a forum for voicing the experiences and priorities of those most adversely affected by health inequalities. This work has attracted funding from ESRC, MRC, GCRF and Health Education England.

I am Co-Director (with Professor Mark Jackson) of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Culture and Health and work closely with the WHO Regional Office for Europe on the Cultural Contexts of Health programme. I have undertaken a number of consultancies including work for UNAIDS, WHO, Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, Ford Foundation, the Ministerio da Educacao in Brazil, and the Department of Health and Department of Education and Communities, NSW, Australia.


Recent research

(PI) Poverty, pathology and pills: mental health under austerity and welfare reform (DeStress project), 2016-2019, ESRC Research Grant

(PI) Developing training materials for GPs working to support the mental health of low-income patients, 2019-2020, Health Education England funded

(PI) Revaluing global care economies, Duke-Exeter Fund

(PI) Co-creating early help for families with complex needs, 2018-2019, ESRC funded

(PI) Supporting families living with mental illness in Minsk Region, Belarus, 2018-2019, GCRF funded

(PI) Early life trauma in Belarus and Ukraine, 2018-2019, MRC TrACES funded


Recent publications

Ford, J., Thomas, F. McCabe, R. and Byng, R. (in press) Use of the PHQ-9 in practice: a study of interactions between patients and generalist physicians, Qualitative Health Research

Thomas, F., Hansford, L., Wyatt, K., and the DeStress team (2020) An engaged approach to exploring poverty and mental health: reflections from researchers and community participants involved in the DeStress study, Health Expectations,

Thomas, F., Hansford, L., and Wyatt, K. (2020) The violence of narrative: embodying responsibility for poverty-related distress, Sociology of Health and Illness,

Thomas, F. (2020) Intercultural Competence and Diversity Sensitivity: Toolkit for Practitioners and Policy Makers, Copenhagen: WHO Europe

Marais, J., Kazakova, O., Krupchanka, D., Suvalo, D. and Thomas, F. (2020) Understanding and building resilience to early life trauma in Belarus and Ukraine, Copenhagen: WHO Europe

Thomas, F. and Fietje, N. (2019) Capturing the cultural narratives of well-being, in Acharya, K. and Plough, A. (eds) Creating a Culture of Well-being, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Ch 5

Thomas, F., Hansford, L., Ford, J., Wyatt, K., McCabe, R., Byng, R. (2019) How accessible and acceptable are current GP referral mechanisms for IAPT for low-income patients? Lay and primary care perspectives, Journal of Mental Health, 1-6,

Ford, J., Thomas, F., McCabe, R. and Byng, R. (2019) How do patients respond to GP recommendations for mental health treatment? British Journal of General Practice Open,

Hansford, L., Thomas, F. and Wyatt, K. (2019) The impact of the Work Capability Assessment on mental health: claimants’ lived experience and GP perspectives in low-income communities, Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 27(3): 351-368

Thomas, F. and Hansford, L. (2019) Supporting mental health in low-income communities: implications for justice and equity, in Aggleton, P., Broom, A. and Moss, J. (eds) Practical Justice: Principles, Practice and Social Change, London: Routledge

Thomas, F., Hansford, L., Ford, J., Wyatt, K., McCabe, R. and Byng, R. (2018) Moral narratives and mental health: rethinking understandings of distress and healthcare support in contexts of austerity and welfare reform, Palgrave Communications, 4: 39

Thomas, F. (2018) Culture and Reform of Mental Health in Central and Eastern Europe, Copenhagen: WHO

PEOPLE – Directors

Robin Durie

25 June 2019


I wrote my PhD at Edinburgh University on the phenomenology of time and of our consciousness of time.

My first post was at Staffordshire University, where, in addition to teaching philosophy, I was also fortunate enough to set up interdisciplinary post-graduate programmes for artists and designers who wanted to conduct research in philosophy alongside their creative practice. Editing and translating a volume of Bergson’s work on Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which included the notorious debate in 1922 between the two great thinkers at the Société française de philosophie, led me to collaborate with a group of philosophers and theoretical physicists on fundamental problems of time and temporality. This work in turn led me complexity theory.

I moved to Exeter in 2002, where I was fortunate enough to co-found the Health Complexity Group at the Peninsula Medical School. In 2005, I took up a position in the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter, where I am currently a Senior Lecturer in Political Theory.

I teach in the area of the history of political thought, where, amongst other things, I lecture on the classical political thought of Plato, Aristotle and the Ancient Greeks; the contemporary political theory of communities; and post-stucturalist responses to Marx and Marxism. With the Health Complexity Group, I conduct transdisciplinary research into the enabling conditions for transformational change in the health and well-being of some of the most economically disadvantaged communities in the country.

Highlights of my career to date

Many of the highlights of my research career have arisen from transdisciplinary collaborations. Based on my foundational research into the ontology of complexity theory, I had the opportunity to collaborate on a wonderfully transdisciplinary research project on swarm robotics, the aim of which was to determine whether it might be possible to create a society of robots which had the potential to develop their own distinctive “robo-culture”.

I have been lucky enough to collaborate with fellow researchers, healthcare professionals and community partners in the remarkable Connecting Communities (C2) programme. Based on primary empirical research done by Katrina Wyatt, the first-hand professional experience of Hazel Stuteley, and my own research on complexity theory, I co-designed C2 with Hazel Stuteley back in 2004. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with many inspiring residents in communities across Cornwall and Devon, and subsequently throughout the rest of the UK, and have seen the astonishing transformations that many of these communities have been able to achieve in their health and well-being.

In 2012, I secured funding with Katrina Wyatt from the RCUK’s Catalysts for Public Engagement programme, the aim of which was to co-create a culture for engaged research within the University. Our experiences of leading the Exeter Catalyst, and collaborating on C2, have played a formative role in our participation in the WCCEH.

The research work I will be undertaking in the Centre

I’m fundamentally interested in the connections between the underlying dynamics of the three main processes which will inform the work of the Centre: those of our transdisciplinary research collaboration; of the public engagement with our research; and of the emergence of healthy publics.

I hope to be able to participate in developing the theoretical and philosophical aspects of the Centre’s work, as well as contributing to the development of the Centre’s public engagement activities and its culture of engaged research.

Something about me you can’t Google!

I was fortunate enough to be able to support Colin Steele in the recording of his “comeback” album with his great Quintet, Even in the Darkest Places. Colin played the very first versions of some of the tracks from the album at my 50th birthday party at The Bridge in Topsham – one of the pieces even received its title from a between-songs heckle!

PEOPLE – Directors

Mark Jackson

25 June 2019


I graduated initially in Immunology (BSc, 1982) and then in medicine (MB BS, 1985) from St. Thomas’ Hospital, University of London.

Following a brief period in clinical practice, I completed doctoral studies, funded by the British Academy, at the University of Leeds on the history of infanticide in eighteenth-century England.

Having taught undergraduate history and philosophy of science at Leeds, I moved to the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at Manchester, where I lectured on the history of science and medicine before being awarded a Wellcome Trust Fellowship for research on the history of ‘mental deficiency’.

In 1998, I relocated to the University of Exeter, where a Wellcome Trust University Award enabled me to pursue research into the global history of allergy. I have spent the rest of my career at Exeter, helping to establish the Centre for Medical History as an international centre of excellence, attracting major strategic institutional and personal grants to pursue research on the history of stress, notions of balance within modern medicine, health in midlife, and the cultural contexts of health, and leading the Exeter bid to establish the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health.

In addition to my role as Director of the Wellcome Centre, I am co-director (with Dr Felicity Thomas) of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Culture and Health, which contributes to the aims of WHO Europe to embed cultural approaches into its health policies. I have served as Chair of the Wellcome Trust History of Medicine and Research Resources funding committees, as Senior Academic Advisor (Medical Humanities) to the Wellcome Trust, and as a member of the History sub-panel for REF 2014. In addition, I chair the WHO Expert Advisory Group on Cultural Contexts of Health and am a member of the WHO European Advisory Group on Health Research.  I am currently Chair of the History sub-panel for REF 2021.

A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, my major books include: The Chain of Immunology (1983); Newborn Child Murder (1996); The Borderland of Imbecility (2000); Allergy: The History of a Modern Malady (2006); Asthma: The Biography (2009); The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine (2011); The Age of Stress: Science and the Search for Stability (2012); Stress in Post-War Britain, 1945-85 (ed., 2015); The Routledge History of Disease (ed., 2016); and A Global History of Medicine (ed., 2017).  Broken Dreams: An Intimate History of the Midlife Crisis is due to be published by Reaktion in 2020.  In 2018, I was awarded the Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal by the Royal Society for significant contributions to popularising medical history and the medical humanities.

Highlights of my career to date

The major highlights of my career involve contributing to the growth of the history of medicine and the medical humanities nationally and internationally and helping to identify the trans-disciplinary potential of rigorous historical research.

My commitment to these ventures extends beyond my own academic contributions to the social and cultural history of modern medicine and science. It has also involved supporting careers for doctoral students, post-doctoral fellows and early career researchers, as well as promoting career development opportunities in engaged research and public engagement.

Enabling careers in these ways has been facilitated by external funding from the Wellcome Trust, not only for the Wellcome Centre but also for significant collaborative programmes of research throughout my career. It has also been aided by significant investment from the University of Exeter in the form of an interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Sciences Strategy.

This support has made it possible to work collaboratively with creative partners across and beyond the University, a process that has been critical in establishing the Wellcome Centre.

The research I will be undertaking in the centre

In addition to supporting and facilitating our collective vision to create and sustain cultures and environments of health, my work aims to interrogate the historical and cultural determinants of ageing and the ways in which different narratives of midlife in particular employ different techniques and carry different psychological, emotional, and political meanings.

Through historical analysis of the conditions that made concepts such as the midlife crisis popular, I hope to explore how health experiences and practices are shaped not only by present social and cultural contexts, but also by those in the past.  A key challenge will be to demonstrate the ways in which historical studies of crises and transitions across the life course can help to inform future health policies.

Something about me you can’t Google!

I have been a fervent, and too often disenchanted, supporter of Queens Park Rangers football club since the early 1960s. But, contrary to my wife’s opinion, expressed on most Saturday afternoons during the football season, I do not love QPR more than I love her and our three children, without whom I would not survive.


Terms, Privacy & Cookies Copyright © 2020