Dr Abi MacDonald

  • Research Assistant (MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit)


Abi joined the Complexity programme team within the School of Public Health and Social Sciences in October 2023. She works on the Physical Activity and Social Connectedness in Healthy Ageing (PACES) project, which takes a community-based approach with older people to explore and co-develop interventions within complex systems.

She is interested in using participatory and qualitative methods to better understand complex health problems shaped by historical cultural, social, economic and political dynamics. Previously, she used these skills and creative comics-based methods to co-create, implement and evaluate actions for change in medical education as part of widening participation and decolonising the medical curriculum projects. For this work, she was awarded prizes in medical humanities and for her research. She has worked and volunteered within community organisations increasing access to healthcare for people who have been displaced, and growing food in community gardens and farms for distribution to people experiencing food insecurity and inequality.

After qualifying as a medical doctor from Brighton and Sussex Medical School, she went on to study Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University of London to learn more about interdisciplinary approaches and methods in the humanities and social sciences. Here, she developed interests in embodiment and ecological approaches to health, complex and agential realism, and histories of science, technology and culture, particularly in the context of wider social relations and inequalities.

Her thesis combined many of her interests, exploring complex social and cultural relations in the type 2 diabetes public health crisis, food systems, and medicalised approaches from an embodiment perspective.

She is also a reviewer for the Journal of Medical Education and has spent time reviewing an international policy research piece on the relation between widening participation in medical education and access to healthcare for underserved communities.



Research interests

Food systems and diets; social connectedness; complex systems; participatory action methods; embodiment; community and population health; place-based approaches and cultural geography (urban-rural); intervention development; medical education; access to health and social care.


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Intersectionality seminar, Race and Racism in Healthcare module for medical students, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, 2020.