Professor Greenhalgh took up a chair Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford in January 2015. She is dual qualified, having gained a BA in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge in 1980 and a medical degree from Oxford in 1983.
Her early career was in hospital medicine, specialising in diabetes and endocrinology – in which (after a short break to start a family) she gained an MD in 1995. Her initial focus as an academic diabetologist had been the laboratory-based study of insulin pharmacokinetics during periods of metabolic stress. Her interest later shifted to the patient’s lived experience of diabetes (the ‘illness narrative’), including the family, social and cultural context in which ‘self management’ occurs, and the organisation and delivery of services for monitoring and preventive care. Diabetes disproportionately affects people from minority ethnic and socio-economically deprived groups, and its prevalence increases with age. Those who are poor, elderly, immigrants and speak limited English are in multiple jeopardy. Improving outcomes for such individuals requires an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates biomedical, psychological, socio-cultural and organisational dimensions, as well as optimising health informatics to support both front-line patient care and secondary uses (audit and research).
Professor Greenhalgh currently leads a programme of research at the interface between social sciences and medicine, with strong emphasis on the organisation and delivery of health services. Her work seeks to celebrate and retain the traditional and humanistic aspects of medicine while also embracing the unparalleled opportunities of contemporary science and technology to improve health outcomes and relieve suffering.
Her research addresses such diverse themes as the evaluation and improvement of clinical services at the primary-secondary care interface, particularly the use of narrative methods to illuminate the illness experience in ‘hard to reach’ groups; the challenges of implementing evidence-based practice in clinical general practice and healthcare policymaking (including the study of knowledge translation and research impact); the adoption and use of new technologies (including electronic patient records and assisted living technologies) by both clinicians and patients; and the application of philosophy to clinical practice.
Professor Greenhalgh is an experienced teacher of undergraduates and postgraduates. Many of her higher degree students have gone on to win national awards and establish their own programmes of research, teaching and service development. She is an internationally recognised innovator and researcher in medical education, especially in the field of e-learning.
Before taking up her chair at Oxford, she was previously on the Senior Executive Group at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. Her leadership in the School’s Research Excellence Framework (submitted in 2014), enablement of early career researchers and pivotal role in equality and diversity issues was recognised in 2013 with a promotion to Dean for Research Impact. The remit of that role was to promote and support the implementation of research findings across the medical school and the commissioning of practice- and policy-relevant research in the healthcare field, as well as contributing more generally to the strategic leadership of the medical school.
Her external roles in the UK have included: Deputy Chair, Main Panel A (Medicine) of UK Research Excellence Framework, Wellcome Senior Investigator, NIHR Senior Investigator and Council Member of Royal College of General Practitioners. She also holds a number of government and academic advisory roles internationally. In 2014 she became only the second woman GP ever to be elected to the UK’s prestigious Academy of Medical Sciences.