Scholar highlight: Amelia Talbot, Rosamund Snow Scholar for Patient-Led Research

The Rosamund Snow Scholarship for Patient-Led Research, based at Green Templeton College and the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences provides the opportunity for someone with experience of illness or long-term conditions and an interest in research and academic study on this towards a DPhil degree (either full-time or part-time).  The scholar will undertake social science research into the illness experience – for example, sociology of health and illness, medical education, or sociology of scientific knowledge (as distinct from campaigning or teaching).

Amelia Talbot Employee PictureAnn McPherson Research Fellow Amelia Talbot is this year’s awardee of the Scholarship, which will support her research using qualitative methods to investigate treatment-resistant depression. We spoke to Amelia about her scholarship and her academic and personal journey so far:

“It is such an honour to have been awarded the Rosamund Snow Scholarship. I have heard such wonderful and empowering stories about Rosamund and her profound impact on medical research. Many academics adopt her signature participant-led methodology which makes me feel so lucky and privileged to have her name attached to my DPhil position. I feel that if Rosamund were here today she would be willing me on and would be so incredibly proud of the work that we will be doing.

My journey to the scholarship has not been the most conventional or easy. I grew up in a small underprivileged town where the concept of university seemed so alien. I struggled academically but had big inspirations and looked up to my older sister who had just started her undergraduate degree. I happened to do an A-Level in sociology which I fell in love with. I felt incredibly engaged with the subject as it was about tangible first-person ‘things’ that I could link to my everyday experiences. This was my lightbulb moment and I knew that this was what I wanted to study at university.

With the support of my sociology teacher, I successfully gained a place at the University of Leicester. It was the perfect fit for me, it was close to home and had a small knit community. However, I still felt way out of my depth and really had to push myself. My hard work did pay off, I managed to achieve an upper second class honours with an average of 69%. I felt like I was starting to flourish academically and continued to do an MA in Contemporary Sociology. At this time, I was still really struggling with self-confidence and was diagnosed with a general anxiety disorder. Having really enjoyed a sociology of health and illness module during my undergraduate I decided the dissertation was a perfect opportunity to research my illness and get to grips with why I may be experiencing it. With the support of the supervisor Dr. Michelle O’Reilly an associate professor of child mental health, I was able to produce an award-winning dissertation on millennial women and their experiences of anxiety in contemporary Britain. It really helped knowing that I was not alone in illness and that what I was feeling was not just biological but related to wider structural processes out of my control.

Having enjoyed and grown a passion for mental health and medical sociology, I happened to stumble upon an advert for the Ann McPherson Pre-Doctoral Fellowship. I knew the position was highly competitive, but by working hard I managed to secure the place. It has been such a rewarding opportunity to work with the best medical researchers in the world and to learn more about the research process. My passion for academia has only grown during my position and has really illuminated how even the smallest research projects have the potential to make big positive changes in our communities. I have particularly enjoyed teaching on the qualitative research methods courses that our research groups runs and the feedback from our delegates on my sensitive and manner has really grown my confidence and gave me a sense of “I can do this and I belong here.

I am incredibly grateful to Professor Sue Ziebland who encouraged me to apply for the scholarship. She knew that I wanted to pursue a PhD and knowing that I lived with anxiety she thought the scholarship would be a “good fit” for me. While I am incredibly passionate about anxiety and know that there are many unanswered questions about this condition, I wanted to research a recent condition I had experienced that had not been considered much in the literature- treatment-resistant depression. I developed this condition in January 2019 after a traumatic life event. I did the usual route of seeing the GP, having psychological therapy, and trying various medications. But, much to my dismay, I was having a very limited response to every treatment. I gave up hope and like many with this condition thought I was broken. Being an inquisitive researcher, however, I began to search online for people who were like me- turns out there is quite a lot of us who are experiencing similar symptoms . My project will be all about this experience with the aim to improve care pathways and conversations about treatment-resistant depression in primary care. As a medical sociologist, I will be using social science-informed methods and theory to guide this project. I feel incredibly lucky that the department has an amazing group of researchers who I can draw on for support during this time.

I am so excited and driven to undertake this important DPhil in Snow’s name. After completion, I hope to continue my career in academia with a focus on social scientific approaches to mental health and perhaps one day lead a mental health research group. I would like to thank all my colleagues in the Medical Sociology and Health Experiences Research Group for encouraging me and supporting me throughout my academic journey. I particularly want to thank Dr. Sara Ryan and Dr. Charlotte Albury for helping create the proposal and for sharing the excitement at this news.”

Rosamund Snow, who died in February 2017, had type 1 diabetes. After completing a Master’s degree in Social Sciences at King’s College London, she went on to study for a PhD in the patient experience of diabetes. She became a respected academic at the University of Oxford, undertaking research and teaching medical students about the importance of the patient perspective. She believed passionately in patients working alongside clinicians to produce research and teaching that is informed by the (often under-valued) expertise in what it is like to live with an illness. She used her own expertise from experience to question and challenge norms of medical practice, always striving to improve patient care. After her death, Rosamund’s family generously donated funding to Green Templeton College at the University of Oxford, to allow others to be trained to continue the work she started through the scholarship. More can be read about the scholarship background here.

The scholarship is linked to the Masters in Translational Health Sciences and to the DPhil in Primary Health Care at the University of Oxford. We wish Amelia the best of luck in her continuing research and career!

Created: 8 April 2020