New PhD Student: Patrick Cairns

Patrick' s PhD project will focus on the doctor-patient relationship. He is from Belfast, Ireland and is very much looking forward to actually meeting his colleagues for the first time after Covid-19 restrictions has eased.

[Translate to English:] Patrick Cairns. Photo: Private
  • What will you be focusing on in your PhD project - in terms of both research and teaching?

My PhD project will focus on a tool to enhance empathy with medical students. Greater empathy within the doctor-patient relationship is good for both sides: reducing burnout in doctors and improving health outcomes in patients. Despite this, international research suggests doctors and medical students have lowest patient-rated empathy amongst the caring professions. My project will test a new tool, an ‘empathy map’ which aims to enhance empathic communication in medical students.

  • What have you done prior to this?

Prior to coming to Aarhus, I studied for a bachelors in Psychology in Aberdeen, Scotland and for a Masters in Health Psychology in St Andrews, Scotland. I also worked as a research assistant for five years at the University of St Andrews, working on various projects from student alcohol consumption to the wellbeing of doctors during COVID-19 and beyond.

  • Why did you choose to do a PhD, and why did you choose the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences?

Whilst working as a research assistant, I knew if I was to do a PhD it would have to be meaningful for me. I truly believe this empathy map project can have a positive impact on doctors and patients, and I believe a PhD is the best platform upon which to work on this. The Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences has world-class researchers who I can collaborate with and learn from, as well as good links to the medical school and Aarhus University Hospital.

  • Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am 29 years old, from Belfast, Ireland. I enjoy singing both in choirs and individually, having performed in two operas within the UK. I value the social-democratic traditions and focus on equality found here in Denmark and other Nordic countries. Since moving to Aarhus I am transitioning from full-time pedestrian to cyclist. I am also very much looking forward to actually meeting my colleagues for the first time when the COVID-19 restrictions has eased!

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