Fit for purpose medical professionals

Fit for purpose: Investigating the teaching and learning of social accountability medical humanities informed curricula for Tasmanian medical students

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

Leading the growing international recognition of the need for public health and sustainability in healthcare delivery, the Australian Medical Council (AMC) has mandated that newly qualified doctors must be able to apply the principles of social-population health to medical practice.  However, there is little consensus to how these principles are taught.

Core elements of medical education anchored in social accountability and medical humanities can foster interdisciplinary learning and research optimising sustainable doctor, patient and community health and wellbeing. This model aims to support the student to achieve a deeper reflective understanding of themselves, learn to identify and respond to society’s health care needs and measure the impact on society. Underpinned by social justice, it provides an evidence-based framework for the medical curriculum to address health determinants and disparities. (1-3)

Health and Society (Domain 3) is one of four AMC themes that run through the University of Tasmania (UTAS) medical degree that teaches population-social health. Over the past two years a new blended learning social accountability medical humanities informed curriculum has been developed and implemented for years 1-3 and is planned for years 4-5, 2022-23. This content includes the use of a novel narrative-based case study. It is unclear if this framework (how and what we teach) is effective in the Tasmania context.

This PhD project will use longitudinal mixed methods (survey and qualitative approaches) to follow a cohort of Hobart and North and Northwest medical students to pursue the following aims,

  1. Use a validated empathy scale to examine how medical students develop empathy
  2. Examine how the Domain 3 curriculum shapes the students understanding of the social determinants of health and wellbeing and how this is applied to practice.


  1. Boelen C. Coordinating medical education and health care systems: the power of the social accountability approach. Medical education. 2018;52(1):96-102.
  2. Boelen C, Pearson D, Kaufman A, Rourke J, Woollard R, Marsh DC, et al. Producing a socially accountable medical school: AMEE Guide No. 109. Medical Teacher. 2016;38(11):1078-91.
  3. Wald HS, McFarland J, Markovina I. Medical humanities in medical education and practice. Medical Teacher. 2019;41(5):492-6.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Jennifer Ayton


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Master’s in Public Health or Honours Sociology / Social sciences

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Jennifer Ayton, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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