Much of the research into diagnostic quality and safety has been focused on cancer – Emma Whitfield’s PhD aims to take this learning and broaden its application into new areas.

It’s a prime example of how the HDRUK-Turing PhD programme is dedicated to ensuring that doctoral research brings tangible gains to healthcare.

The project uses electronic health records to help support the diagnosis of hard-to-suspect conditions in primary care associated with diagnostic delay.

Emma says: “The research has been quite centralised around cancer. So we said let’s think about other diseases and what we can we say about diagnostic quality and safety for them. We think we can do quite a lot just by starting to broaden this out.”

Like other students on the programme she sees the initial foundation year as hugely beneficial, along with the immersion events that introduce them to new organisations and areas of health data research activity.

Emma says: “It was really nice having the first year to just explore different things and to have the time and flexibility to find out what works for me, what I like to work on and how I like to work. It’s something you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”

The upshot is that she feels deeply invested in her thesis project.

Emma says: “It was great to have the flexibility to really design your own PhD projects, instead of picking a title from a list. I can say that this is my research. I’m not moulding my interests around someone else’s.”

Emma does not know whether her future lies in academia, but currently wants to explore opportunities where she can make use of her research.

Emma’s background

Emma has an MMath from the University of Bath where her main focus was on Numerical Analysis and Applied Maths. An internship introduced her to the potential applications of data science in healthcare.

In her free time she enjoys reading, cooking, and volunteering with her local Brownie pack.