Spotlight on... Dr Emily McBride

This week we meet Dr Emily McBride - Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Behavioural Science and Health - who chats to us about winning an award from Public Health England and NIHR for Best Public Health Professional Researcher of 2019-20.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Behavioural Science and Health, completing an NIHR Fellowship in cervical cancer communication and prevention. In terms of my background, I trained as a Health Psychologist in the NHS and hold a PhD in Behavioural Science from UCL.

I enjoy a varied role at UCL and work across different projects with often diverse responsibilities. Mostly, I conduct research examining psychological aspects of living with physical health conditions or on using behavioural science to prevent illness and disease. I also spend a lot of time working on policy impact projects and engaging with health policymakers in the UK Government and national authorities. Some of my other responsibilities include supervising MSc students and trainee health psychologists, as well as working with collaborators and attending stakeholder engagement meetings.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I have been at UCL for almost six years now. This always comes as a surprise to me as I moved to London with the full intention of staying for only a year. Yet here I am now with no intention to leave anytime soon, and the time has flown by!

Alongside my UCL role, I have worked in various other positions such as a Senior Behavioural Scientist for the UK Government and as a Visiting Scholar at Yale University and McGill University. Before I joined UCL, my previous role was in the NHS where I was training as a health psychologist across clinical services for diabetes, pain management, and public health.

What working achievement are you most proud of?

I recently won some awards for my research completed as part of my NIHR fellowship in cervical cancer communication, of which I am particularly proud. The first award was from the NIHR and PHE as Best Public Health Professional Researcher of 2019-20. The second was the 2021 PhD/Doctoral Prize from the Society of Academic Primary Care. The third was the 2021 Excellence in Health Psychology Early Career Award from the British Psychological Society, Division of Health.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

I am currently designing a new project focused on the psychological impact of living with multiple long-term term conditions (multimorbidity) and the development of an intervention to help prevent the development of additional conditions. This project is still in the early stages, so I currently have lots of reading, drafting, iterating, and engaging with stakeholders to do.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

In the academic spirit of this interview:

Q: Why did the scarecrow win a Nobel prize?
A: Because he was outstanding in his field.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

  • Ruth Bader Ginsberg - an all-round inspirational woman known for staying authentic to her true values and beliefs, whilst maintaining respect and often friendships with those in opposition. Something we should all aspire to and a dream conversationalist for any dinner party.
  • Jesus - whether you believe he is the son of God or a successful magician and alchemist, he must be one of the most influential leaders of all time. It would be insightful to get some clarification on key historical events through a modern-day lens!
  • Cleopatra (Queen of Egypt) - I find Ancient Egyptian history fascinating and would love to understand more about Cleopatra’s story and motivations, first-hand. Also, to be able to confirm or debunk the myths and rituals from that era.
  • What advice would you give your younger self?

    You gain the most agency in your career when you master the art of saying no.

    What would it surprise people to know about you?

    I absolutely love spicy food and, during my undergraduate degree, was crowned champion of a chilli eating competition.

    What is your favourite place?

    I love to travel, so this is a difficult one! But I have a particular soft spot for South East Asia - so probably either Hanoi in Vietnam or Chiang Mai in Thailand.


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