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Emma Watson

2021–22 U.K. Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice; Deputy Medical Director, NHS Highland

Emma Jane Watson Headshot

Placement: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mentor: George H. Pink, Ph.D., Humana Distinguished Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management; Senior Research Fellow, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research; Deputy Director, North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Co-mentor: Kristie Thompson, M.A., Project Manager and Research Associate, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Project: Rurality as a Lens to Explore Health Care Transformation in Fragile and Underserved Areas

Emma Watson, MBChB, M.Sc., FRCPath, FRCPEd, is a 2021–22 U.K. Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice. She is Deputy Medical Director for acute hospital services in NHS Highland, where she led the clinical response to COVID-19 and ensured there was a whole system approach to managing the impact of the virus. She is& also a Senior Medical Advisor in the Scottish Government. In both roles, her focus is on developing innovative approaches to ensuring equitable access to high-quality health care services with a sustainable health and care workforce, particularly in remote and rural areas. She has led several major change programs including the development of Scotland’s first graduate-entry medical school. She previously held a government post as Clinical Lead for the Scottish Patient Safety Programme, during which she ensured quality improvement methodology translated from the development of health policy and strategy through to implementation across the entirety of the Scottish healthcare system. As Director of Medical Education in NHS Highland, she focused on the delivery of high-quality medical education as a tool to increase recruitment of doctors to the region and encourage young people from the area to go into medicine themselves. She is a Consultant Medical Microbiologist by background, and holds an MBChB (First class merits in Surgery and Child Health) and an M.Sc. in Health Services Research and Public Health.

Project Overview: Delivering safe, affordable, and sustainable health care to fragile and underserved populations is a challenge for all countries. Populations in rural areas are often older, underutilize health care, and are sicker when they do seek help. The current health policy context in both Scotland and the U.S. is aligned on the objective of providing affordable access to safe, equitable care for vulnerable populations.

This research will examine rural health systems that excel in delivering cost-effective population health. Qualitative methods will be employed to gather information on the policies and operational strategies that are currently improving access to safe and affordable health care within rural parts of the U.S. Through this work we aim to create consensus on the content of a framework for rural healthcare transformation which shares the awareness of those success drivers and enables the spread of transformative models internationally.