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4-year PhD Studentship: De-queering for acceptance: how ideas of medical professionalism impact queer people’s socialisation into clinical education

   Faculty of Health Sciences

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  Dr Sally Dowling, Dr Duncan Shrewsbury, Prof Karen Forbes, Prof David Abbott, Mrs Annie Noble-Denny  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

At the core of all medical courses is professional identity formation, a process of enculturation driven by both implicit and explicit curriculums (Cruess et al, 2014) that socialise learners into the community of medicine. Embedded are difficult to quantify ideas about professionalism that can greatly impact feelings of acceptance and legitimacy.

Queer or LGBTQIA+ identities by their nature often sit outside what is considered the 'norm'. Over 70% of lesbian, gay and bisexual doctors and medical students have experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace, with 75% of those surveyed hiding their sexuality from some of their colleagues (BMA, 2016). In addition, LGBTQIA+ identities remain poorly represented in medical education (Tollemache et al, 2021) which often perpetuates stigma.

Recent publications (Helppi and Pliener 2021) suggest an identity dissonance (Costello, 2005) that exists in the space between the uniqueness of queer expression and ideas of professionalism. This dissonance may manifest as attempts to hide queerness to conform to cisgender and heteronormative ideas of professionalism.

This project seeks to explore how queer students and doctors perceive the relationship between visible queerness and professionalism, what adaptations they might make, and what impact this has on their socialisation and learning.

Aims and objectives

We hypothesise that LGBTQIA+ students and newly qualified doctors de-queer their identity for acceptance into social learning spaces. This study aims to better understand LGBTQIA+ medical students’ and newly qualified doctors’ perceived connections between visible queerness and their emerging professional identities, and possible educational impacts within clinical learning spaces.


  1. How do LGBTQIA+ students and doctors perceive the relationship between visible queerness and professionalism?
  2. How and why does ‘de-queering’ their identity manifest and impact on their learning in educational spaces?
  3. How can these findings inform stakeholders to create LGBTQIA+ inclusive pedagogy and local/institutional ED&I policy?


Phase 1

The candidate will be supported to undertake a narrative synthesis of the literature on socialisation and enculturation into professionalism in medicine, and the impact of queerness on this. The candidate will gain skills in i) developing a search strategy, ii) screening and appraising the literature, iii) developing a protocol for the narrative synthesis of complex and varied data and iv) presentation and writing skills, supported by UoB and external supervisors.

Phase 2

The candidate will be supported to develop a strategy for recruiting LGBTQIA+ students and newly qualified doctors and survey and qualitative methods skills, likely to include semi-structured interviews, narrative accounts or focus groups, with emphasis on participants as partners.

Phase 3

Qualitative supervisors will support the candidate to develop appropriate data analysis skills, utilising frameworks such as queer theory and Goffman’s presentation of self, to explore and present the data.

Phase 4

The candidate will consider the impact of the data on medical education in the UK and explore these with relevant stakeholders, including Bristol Medical School and Medical Schools Council EDI group, aiming to influence national approaches to the inclusion and celebration of LGBTQIA+ people in healthcare education, consistent with the University’s EDI agenda.

How to apply for this project

This project will be based in Bristol Medical School - Population Health Sciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Bristol.

Please visit the Faculty of Health Sciences website for details of how to apply

Funding Notes

This project is open for University of Bristol PGR scholarship applications (closing date 25th February 2022)
The University of Bristol PGR scholarship pays tuition fees and a maintenance stipend (at the minimum UKRI rate) for the duration of a PhD (typically three years but can be up to four years).


British Medical Association(2016). The experience of lesbian, gay and bisexual doctors in the NHS. LGBT Equality in the Workplace[online].
Costello, C.Y.(2005). Professional identity crisis. Tennessee: Vanderbilt University Press.
Cruess, R.L., Cruess, S.R., Boudreau, J.D., et al.(2014). Reframing medical education to support professional identity formation. Academic Medicine, 89(11), 1446–1451.
Helppi A, Pliener S. Queerness and professional identity formation. The British Student Doctor Journal.2021;5(2):108–10.
Tollemache, N., Shrewsbury, D. and Llewellyn, C.(2021). Que(e)rying undergraduate medical curricula: a cross-sectional online survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer content inclusion in UK undergraduate medical education. BMC Medical Education, 21(1).
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