Academic Spotlight: Dr Pippa Tollow

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In this Academic Spotlight we asked Dr Pippa Tollow, Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology at UWE Bristol.

Tell us about your background and how you became interested in your research area?

It was during my undergraduate degree and a sandwich year working in the NHS that I discovered an interest in health psychology and decided this was the area I wanted to work in. This interest was further reinforced through my MSc in Health Psychology and subsequent PhD studies at the University of Surrey, and it was through my PhD that I became particularly interested in the importance of communication in healthcare and the patient-clinician relationship, as well as the value of representing the patient voice in research. When looking across my previous experience in research and clinical settings, appearance-altering conditions were a clear theme and so the opportunity to join the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) in 2017 felt like the perfect fit. Since joining CAR, I’ve been able to work across many exciting projects, developing expertise in the areas of cancer and burns, and in psychosocial interventions to support individuals with appearance-altering conditions.

Tell us more about your research and research projects, are there any particular projects you want to highlight?

My research primarily investigates the psychosocial impact of appearance-altering conditions, with a specific focus on this topic within cancer and burns. In particular, I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done at the Centre of Appearance Research (CAR) around decision making and breast cancer, where I’ve worked on projects to promote shared decision making around breast reconstruction (the PEGASUS trial, funded by Breast Cancer Now) and exploring the experiences of women seeking a Contralateral Prophylactic Mastectomy (CPM). Each of these projects has allowed us to further understand the experiences of women when making decisions around their care and to make recommendations about how to improve these experiences in the future, including the development of the PEGASUS intervention (http://www.pegasusdecisionmaking.com/).

Another project that I feel is particularly important is some work that I led exploring the experiences of adults with incurable cancer with regards to their appearance, which was the first study to look at this topic in detail, and revealed the powerful role that appearance changes played in the experiences of these individuals. This was identified as an area where patients felt significant distress and wanted further support in order to improve their wellbeing. We hope to take this work further in the future, with the potential to develop support for patients and healthcare professionals in this underexplored area.

How could your academic expertise be practically applied for a business partner or external collaboration?

Our research at the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) is highly applied and often involves collaborations with charities, clinicians and other organisations. A real strength of these collaborations is the combination of our research knowledge, our wealth of experience working in the area of appearance-altering conditions, and our expertise developing psychosocial interventions, with the knowledge and expertise of our collaborators who work in these areas. These collaborations allow us to help solve real-world problems, ensure that our research is relevant to the populations we are hoping to help, and increases the impact of our work.
My own specific expertise lies in the psychosocial impact of cancer and burns, including exploring the experiences of individuals in relation to these sensitive topics and how these groups can be further supported with regards to appearance concerns. I’d be keen to hear from any organisations who would like to work together on projects in this area.

You Can connect with Dr Pippa Tollow via her LinkedIn

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