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 most recent work has focused on resisting bodies in a health intervention: Unruly bodies

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!

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