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Case study: Award-winning research

Emily’s diverse portfolio of public health, clinical and policy work deemed “outstanding”

This week marks an important day for Public Health and for research professional, Dr Emily McBride.

Following an announcement at the Public Health England conference this week, Emily became only the second person ever to win the Public Health England (PHE) and NIHR CRN ‘Health Professional’ research award for ‘Best Public Health Professional Researcher’.   

Emily is a health psychologist and behavioural scientist by profession, currently working as a Senior Research Fellow in cervical cancer prevention at University College London (UCL).

The PHE and NIHR CRN award was first introduced in 2019 and was developed to recognise outstanding professionals and early career researchers, working in public health. As well as showcasing exemplary research and professional practice, the awards aim to encourage the adoption of PHE research studies on to the CRN portfolio. Investing in, and supporting those working within, population health research is crucial to improving public health.

Emily’s diverse portfolio of public health, clinical and policy work was deemed “outstanding” by the awarding panel. Her research and wider work have resulted in real world impact, such as in cervical screening services and for policymakers in the COVID-19 behavioural science response.

Building on her initial studies, to which she recruited over 1100 patients, Emily was awarded a £354,000 doctoral research fellowship from the NIHR in 2017. She has used this to continue her population health research and complete a PhD.

Now a Senior Research Fellow and Health Psychologist, she undertakes her role at University College London (UCL), where she continues to carry out research. Upon receiving the award, she said:

“It's an honour to win this award for my research and practice in public health and policy. This is also testament to my brilliant colleagues and collaborators, who continue to play a significant role in my ongoing projects.

“Like many clinical or applied researchers, my projects require engaging in collaborative, inclusive, and cross-disciplinary processes. By introducing rigorous academic methods to those partnerships, I hope to continue to inform health policy and practice.”

Emily’s current NIHR fellowship involves research with women who experience anxiety and distress after testing positive for human papillomavirus (HPV) at cervical cancer screening. Her research examines reasons for heightened anxiety and looks for ways to prevent this in routine services. For example, some women may be afraid of developing cancer, and others may have concerns about the sexually transmitted nature of HPV or misinterpret their risk. 

Emily is also interested in how negative experiences and behaviours may differ between the general population, those living with mental health problems, and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Her research examines how these factors can influence attendance at screenings and her findings have important public health implications and notable impact for the roll out of HPV primary screening across England.

Emily described herself as “deeply humbled” to receive the award. Going forward, she hopes to continue generating impact through research linked to public health and clinical practice with an ultimate benefit to patients, policymakers, and practitioners.

You can read more about Emily’s career, in our ‘Your Path in research’ feature

Or read some of Emily's research papers at:

McBride et al, 2019, International Journal of Cancer:

McBride et al, 2020, Health Psychology Review:

McBride et al, 2020, Psycho-Oncology:

McBride et al, 2021, Annals Behavioral Medicine:

McBride et al, 2021, British Journal of Health Psychology: