Socially accountable medical education

Teaching Empathy and Social Accountability: A longitudinal study of medical students (TESA)

Degree type


Closing date

27 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Leading the growing international need to reduce health inequity and promote sustainability in healthcare delivery, the Australian Medical Council (AMC) has mandated that newly qualified doctors must be able to apply the principles of social accountability, population health, ethics, and professionalism. To be socially responsive, medical students throughout their five-year degree must learn to, 1) identify the health needs and challenges of the community, ii) respond to those needs; and iii) measure the impact on the health status of the society while maintaining empathy and their wellbeing.  Contemporary medical education curricula must use creative approaches such as medical humanities (creative arts, patient narratives, reflections, and narrative case studies) to evolve into more interdisciplinary place-based programs that foster the development of social accountability and empathy and meet the AMCs graduate learning outcomes.

This multi-site mixed methods longitudinal research project will explore how/if medical humanities can be used to support medical students’ learning and application of professionalism, identify, and respond to the health needs of society, and how this impacts personal well-being and professional empathy, and career goals.

The successful applicant will work with Dr Ayton and the project team to refine the scope, make decisions about study design, and select an appropriate overarching theoretical framework. This PhD project will develop and extend the teaching team's research expertise /theme of public health and build new knowledge producing original empirical findings with the potential to guide the Australian medical education curriculum to improve the equitable provision of health care for Tasmania and beyond.

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 $31,500 per annum (2023 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.


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 your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Jennifer Ayton to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. 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 2 x 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 by the advertised outcome date.

Apply now Explore other projects

Why the University of Tasmania?

Worldwide reputation for research excellence

Quality supervision and support

Tasmania offers a unique study lifestyle experience