Skip to main content
Dr Sofia Anthi Vougioukalou

Dr Sofia Anthi Vougioukalou

Research Associate

School of Healthcare Sciences

+44 (0)29 206 88575
+44 (0)29 2091 7803
Room 13.18, Eastgate House, Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 0AB


I am the academic lead for patient and public involvement and engagement in a large study on dementia care in hospitals funded by the National Institute for Health Research. I lead a programme of research that uses innovative creative methodologies to accelerate the unique potential of public involvement in the transformation of public services. My research  includes collaborating with artists and patient champions to identity and test visual methodologies that might amplify qualitative data collection on hard-to-express experiences of chronic illness; and consequently examine the applications of visual data in quality improvement and clinical teaching. A particular focus of work has been developing and testing an integrated approach to involvement, engagement and arts-for-health enquiry that provides an effective translation platform for research, clinical and hard-to-reach patient and public communities. The approach has been applied and evaluated as an innovative approach to public involvement in cancer and dementia research in Wales and through our NIHR-funded research we plan to test its application to other research settings. I am also developing a cross-service research initiative on the wider role of arts in health for marginalised groups such as refugees, asylum seekers, long stay hospital patients and care home residents.

My research draws on the fields of healthcare delivery and organisation, participatory action research and anthropology (medical and visual), and incorporates the study of the delivery of health care services, particularly to hard-to-reach and vulnerable patient groups as well as participatory quality improvement interventions. I have an overarching interest in visual methodologies, arts for health, public involvement, co-production, implementation and health inequalities. 

I have been a Principal Investigator or co-applicant on five externally funded research grants since 2012 including one NIHR grant and funding sources include JISC, Tenovus Cancer Care, Public Health Wales and HEFCW (total £650K). Dissemination of findings arising from my research has often been via international health research journals and those focusing specifically on the intersection between social sciences and health care management. Amongst my peer-reviewed journal articles are publications in Anthropology & Medicine, Health Services Research and Policy, Healthcare Organisation and Management, Journal of Clinical Nursing and Educational Action Research. Previous research in the informal healthcare sector contributed to two book chapters on the value of lay medical knowledge in medicinal plant conservation and teaching social and plant sciences at university level. I have also contributed the entry on 'Collecting Illness Narratives' in a forthcoming Sage Research Methods Foundations edited volume.



BSc(Hons), University of Leeds (1999)

MSc, University of Leeds (2000)

PhD, University of Kent (2010)

After training in Biological Sciences, I pursued a career in socially-engaged health research by undertaking a PhD in the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent . It was funded by the Economic and Social Sciences Research Council through a larger research methods grant on digital ethnography. My PhD thesis was based on 12-months ethnographic fieldwork in the Cook Islands where I tested the use of digital photos and video in data elicitation using open source software.  In my thesis I examined lay understandings of illness and medicinal plant use while receiving medical care in different settings using an ethnobiological approach (an interdisciplinary methodology combining anthropology and biology that seeks to bridge cultural and biomedical understandings of biological processes). This approach has provided me with a foundation for comparing epistemologies between patients and clinicians and different professional specialisations; and using visual data to elicit understandings of care. My training in both biological and social sciences has provided me with a command of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, skills in inductive and deductive data analysis and an understanding of positivist as well as critical theory/post-modernist perspectives. My research practice is grounded in anthropological understandings of situated knowledge and (organisational) culture change as it applies to different healthcare settings. 

Honours and awards

Health and social care research funding

2019-2020: Dementia care experiences – understanding diversity, implementing equality, creating shared learning, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, £45,000, Principal Investigator

2018-20: Understanding how to facilitate continence for people with dementia in acute hospital settings: raising awareness and improving care, National Institute for Health Research, £505,000, Co-Investigator

2017: The human cost of cancer: addressing the unique physical, emotional and financial implications of facing cancer while living alone, Tenovus Cancer Care - Innovation Grant, £29,700, Principal Investigator

2016: Development of a self-sustaining community of Huntington’s disease walkers in Wales, Wellcome Trust ISSF – Public Engagement, £9,600, Co-Investigator

2012: Assessing the impact of participatory research, JISC, £20,425, Co-Investigator

Evaluation and knowledge exchange funding

2011: Evaluation of early intervention parenting support programmes delivered by Homestart and Canterbury and District Early Years Project, NHS Strategic Health Authority South East, £4,000

2011: Capacity building for the Third Sector in the Canterbury District’, Higher Education Fund for Innovation 4, HEFCE, £3,000

2010: Evaluation of Multi-agency Cascade Services for children at the risk of school exclusion, Kent County Council Children Families and Education Directorate, £4,500

2010: Anthropological approaches to programme evaluation’, Knowledge Transfer Small Awards, HEFCE, £1,000

Educational grants and travel awards

2011: Invited speaker to Open Science Network education colloquium at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Economic Botany in St Louis, National Science Foundation (US) & Texas Botanical Research Institute, $2,000

2010: 'Using online collaborative platforms to facilitate knowledge transfer partnerships between universities and community organisations’, Higher Education Fund for Innovation 4, HEFCE, £2,000

2010: ‘The Kent Cider Ethnobotany Project: using wikis, participatory video and YouTube to enhance teaching and learning about local natural resource uses’, Open Science Network Travel Grant to present at the 51st Annual Meeting of the Society for Economic Botany in Xalapa Mexico, National Science Foundation (US) & Texas Botanical Research Institute, $1,800

2009: ‘Developing e-learning tools for anthropology’, Challenge Fund, Unit for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, University of Kent, £1,000

2009: Early Career Ethnobiologist Travel Grant to attend the 50th Annual Meeting of the Society for Economic Botany in Charleston, National Science Foundation (US) & Texas Botanical Research Institute, $980

Professional memberships

Co-production Network for Wales

Involving People (Wales)

Fellow, Royal Anthropological Institute

Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing, University of Kent

Public engagement ambassador for Life Sciences and Health, National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement

Academic positions

2013 - 2014: Public Engagement Associate for Health Research, Elizabeth Blackwell Institute (Wellcome Trust) & Integrative Epidemiology Unit (MRC), University of Bristol

2011- 2013: Research Associate and Research Design Service Advisor, Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King’s College London

2010- 2011: Senior Lecturer in Knowledge Transfer, Centre for Health and Social Care Research, Canterbury Christ Church University

2007-2009: Monitoring & Evaluation Consultant, Department of Social Work, Health and Community, Canterbury Christ Church University

2008-2011: Associate Lecturer, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent

2003- 2010: Research and Teaching Assistant, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent

Committees and reviewing


Patient and Public Involvement Strategy Group, School for Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University

Research and Innovation Committee, School for Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University

Cardiff University Research Staff Association rep for School for Healthcare Sciences


Associate editor: Cogent Social Sciences (2016-2017)

Journal reviewer: Journal of Health Organisation and Management, Research for All, Journal of Oncology Nursing

Grant reviewer: National Institute for Health Research, General Nursing Council for England and Wales Trust











  • Vougioukalou, S. 2010. Responding to the 'big society': flexible curriculum development for the voluntary sector. Presented at: University Vocational Awards Council Annual Conference, York, England, 11-12 November 2010 Presented at University Vocational Awards Council, . ed.The Future Agenda for Higher Level Skills and Work-Based Learning Seminar Papers from the University Vocational Awards Council Annual Conference. Bolton: University Vocational Awards Council pp. 35-46.


I am currently in a research-specific position but I guest lecture on a range of courses, focusing on my methodological expertise in ethnography, co-production, transcultural care, visual methodologies, patient and public involvement and public engagement. I have previously taught on a range of subjects related to social and medical anthropology, health and social care evaluation, health inequalities and traditional medical systems.  

I have been module convenor on six courses: Cultures and Societies I and II - introduction to social anthropology (University of Kent), People and Traditional Medicine and People and Medicinal Plants - introduction to ethnobotany (University of Kent), Knowledge transfer and research methods for the voluntary sector (Canterbury Christ Church University), and  Effective engagement and impact: from research design to evaluation  (King's College London). I have previously contributed towards teaching on the Masters in Public Health on ethnography and patient and public involvement.  I have also advised on doctoral, masters and undergraduate dissertations in social as well as health care sciences.

My primary area of expertise lies in participatory healthcare improvement with a focus of integrating visual methodologies within qualitative research. I have researched the hospital experiences of people with long-term conditions (cancer, dementia and Huntingdon’s disease) incorporating data from interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, and visual methods. I have led research enquiry using creative methods in both cancer and dementia and used patient-produced images in education, service improvement and public engagement. I have experience of co-production in healthcare settings using Experience-Based Co-Design, Appreciative Inquiry, Participatory Action Research and Participatory Rural Appraisal. My research contributes to the evaluation and foundational understanding of the integration of lay and experiential knowledge into health service improvement for long-term conditions such as cancer and dementia.  I use approaches of medical anthropology such as ethnographic and visual methods to understand patients’ experiences of illness, treatment and survivorship. I use patient and public involvement and engagement to identify culturally-appropriate ways to engage service users in research, service improvement and impact-generating activities. My goal is to contribute to the delivery of speedier inexpensive innovation in health and social care services through engaged research. 

I have analysed the diffusion and adoption of new medical knowledge (including patient ‘lay’ knowledge) in practice drawing on theory of practice, narrative medicine , visual methods and ethnographic applications in applied health research. These frameworks could also be applied to the analysis of narratives of experiences of the provision of services to enable a more nuanced understanding of the complex dimensions of staff experience and the way those experiences relate to cultural models, healthcare settings and emotional burnout which in turn directly affect the delivery of person-centred compassionate care.


I have experience supervising international students undetaking MSc and PhD programmes.  I am currently supervising three international PhD students in healthcare sciences. I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of global health, transcultural care, co-production, visual methodologies and arts for health.

Current supervision

Manal Ali Hamithi

Research student