Molly Gilmour

Research title: How can we strengthen emergency healthcare for forced migrants situated on the edges of Europe?

Research Summary


Before beginning my PhD, I spent several years working within the humanitarian aid sector supporting operations for emergency medical provision both from the field and Head Quarters. This experience highlighted both the opportunities and challenges that service users and service providers face during the process of delivering care for refugee populations. This experience led me to write a PhD project which asks, ‘what operational changes in humanitarian medical care are needed to establish more effective and culturally appropriate aid provision’?

My PhD investigates how humanitarian medical operations are mobilised in Lebanon, and asks what might more effective and culturally appropriate refugee healthcare look like?

Key arguments used to frame this research include theories of post-coloniality and the social determents of health in spaces of aid. In August 2019, I travelled to Lebanon to work with the project partners, an international NGO and a national humanitarian medical NGO, to develop a clearer understanding of the settings in which they work and to foster the links required to conduct this research. 

Research Questions 

RQ1: How have humanitarian medical organisations shifted operations in response to the multiple shocks in Lebanon? 

 Sub Questions:

  • Are aid recipients/patients/service users satisfied with how aid has been prioritized? 
  • Is it ethical to transfer most of the already under-resourced capacities and priorities to Covid-19 response?  
  • Can the most essential physical and mental health needs of a multiple shock surviving population be met, if most resources are focusing on the Covid-19 response – is it even an option to disregard these needs given the multiple long-term societal consequences?


RQ2: What are the most essential needs for patients of humanitarian medical services, and are these being met?  

 Sub Questions:

  • Who is losing out in these shifting priorities and why do we think this is?  
  • How can long-term public health goals be achieved when the MO of aid organisations is emergency provision?
  • Do emergency efforts ensure access to all services for the entire population in this protracted conflict? If not, which services are protected and why in a context where social, economic and political forces are competing in a fragmented healthcare system? 

RQ3: Can a codevelopment group be used to meaningfully engage staff and service users to collectively improve medical aid service provision in Lebanon?


There will be three ‘groups’ of participants, which represent the key stakeholders in involved in the service: staff (management and practitioners), Lebanese and Syrian patients. I will conduct a cross-case analysis using participatory methods to explore the social and cultural constructs of health, illness and treatment in these spaces to understand needs and their meanings, relating to health and wellbeing. This project will work with two charitable organisations; an international and a national humanitarian medical aid organisation in two urban spaces in Lebanon. Both organisations treat all patients, regardless of religion, gender (etc) at no charge. Due to Covid-19 mitigation measures a Researcher in Lebanon has been recruited to facilitate the codevelopment group workshops.

Research Methods

Codevelopment Group

Through qualitative semi-structured participatory research with medical aid staff, Lebanese and Syrian patients and their families (where appropriate), the researcher will explore whether, in their experience, their healthcare needs have been addressed.


An ethnographic-style audio-diary will be kept by the data collector as they reflect on the method and process to quickly capture the description of the context and the meaning making process.This data will enrich the co-development group as it will connect their experiences, exploring their positionalities (Syrian, Lebanese, aid worker etc), in relation to the social meanings and understandings being developed in the space.


Staff of international and national aid organisations will be interviewed about perceived and documented needs, their reflection on whether these are being met, why they believe certain priorities were made and what consequences they think this might have. The researcher in Lebanon will also be interviewed 

Interviewing Researchers; After an initial familiarization with the data generated in the co-development groups and the audio diary, a topic guide will be created to further explore the emerging themes in an semi-structured interview with the researcher in Lebanon. This topic guide will focus on a) the data generated during the co-development group b) the process of conducting the co-development group and c) the nature of the remote international partnership designs. This will provide insight the strengths and weaknesses of the participatory methods and virtual international research design alongside acting as a form of member checking for the data generated in the co-development group

Research Interests

  • Medical Sociology
  • Humanitarian Aid 
  • Participatory Research Methods
  • Humanitarian Affairs
  • Refugee Studies

Disciplines include: Anthropology; Psychosociology; Healthcare Organisation; Implementation Science; Biomedicine; Community Learning & Engagement and Sociology


Joy, A., Piacentini, T., Gilmour, M., & Aksu, P. (2022). Safe in Scotland: A pandemic-era alternative to institutional asylum accommodation.

Piacentini, T., Mirza, N., & Gilmour, M. (2022). Challenges of language, accessibility, and ethics when conducting digital interviews in the virtual space. In SAGE Research Methods Cases.

Gilmour, M. et al. (2021). What constitutes a ‘positive’ contraceptive experience? British Medical Journal Sexual & Reproductive Health Blog

Gilmour, M. (2021). Book Review: Roberto G Gonzales, Nando Sigona, Martha C Franco and Anna Papoutsi, Undocumented Migration. British Sociological Association Network Magazine

Armstrong, S. et al. (2020). Left out and locked down: impacts of COVID-19 for marginalised groups in Scotland. Project Report. University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland

UNHCR, Shelter Cluster Afghanistan and REACH. (2020). Local Architecture Review: Key findings on vernacular shelter designs, materials and local building practices in Afghanistan. Kabul: REACH Initiative.

Gilmour, M. (2017). Health in our house; MSF OCA is reorganising care for its own staff. Amsterdam: Médecins Sans Frontières Ins & Outs


£1,200: 2020, Economic Social Research Council and the Scottish Funding Council 

£1,000: 2019, British Sociological Society

£72,000: 2018, UofGlasgow Lord Kelvin Adam Smith PhD Funding

£550: 2017, National Centre for Competency in Research Travel Grant Switzerland

€300: 2017, Institute of Migration and Ethnic Studies Scholarship, Greece 

€2,000: 2012 Dublin City University 



  • People on the Move in an Evolving Europe: Université de Fribourg: 20th - 25th August 2017


  • Sustainable Futures in Africa Symposium: Lira, Uganda 14th - 15th of February, 2019
  • Sustainable Futures in Africa Symposium: Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria: 12th - 15th of February, 2018
  • Sustainable Futures in Africa Symposium: University of Botswana: March 27-29 2017
  • Tackling Instability, Radicalisation and Forced Migration: Beurs van Berlage, 16th Nov, 2016
  • Towards Business Solutions for Development: Impact Hub, Amsterdam, 13th Jun, 2016
  • Doing Business in Fragile States: Beurs van Berlage, 11th Nov, 2015



2022: Graduate Teaching Assistant; Qualitative Research Methods: University of Glasgow; Scotland 

2019: Graduate Teaching Assistant; Sociology: University of Glasgow; Scotland 

2016: Cofounder, Open Cultural Centre; Idomeni Refugee Camp, Greece

2013 – 2014: English Teacher, Fáilte Isteach; Ireland

2011 – 2013: Coordinator, SUAS Educational Development; Ireland

2011: English Summer; Spain

Additional Information


MSc. Sociology: Migration and Ethnic Studies, University of Amsterdam

Thesis: A Review of the Linkage Act 1998: how accessible are health services for undocumented migrants in Amsterdam?

BA (Hons) Contemporary Culture and Society, Dublin City University

Dissertation: ‘Intercultural Inclusion?’ Exploring the Irish Traveller Communities’ Perception of ‘An Garda Síochána’ [Irish Police Force]


Certificates Including:

July '20: Methods and re(design) of Fieldwork in Anthropology & STS; IT - University of Copenhagen

June '20: Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies; Emory University & CDC

May '20: Project Management (Level 3); Chartered Management Institute

Aug '17: People on the Move in an Evolving Europe (Migration Law); Université de Fribourg, Switzerland

Jan '17: Migration in the Margins of Europe (Anthropology); Institute of Migration and Ethnic Studies, Athens

Aug '15: Research Methodology and Design; University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Mar '13: SUAS Global Issues Course; Dublin City University, Ireland

09-10: Journalism for the Digital Age; Dún Laoghaire Further Education Institute, Ireland



Native: English

Intermediate: Dutch, French

Beginner: Arabic, Irish


Training Including:

  • Amnesty Internatoinal: Human Rights: The Rights of Refugees 
  • Edinburgh Napier University: Ethics and Field Work in Conflict Zones
  • Levantine Institute of Tripoli: Levantine Arabic Intensive Immersion Programme
  • Médecins Sans Frontières: Reporting Gender Based Violence
  • Refugee Trauma Initiative: Mental Health First Aid
  • Shield Global: Hostile Environment Awareness Training 
  • The British Red Cross: Boundaries and Confidentiality for Refugee Support
  • The British Red Cross: Safe Talk Training - Suicide Alertness
  • The British Red Cross: Safeguarding for Refugee Support
  • The British Red Cross: Working with Interpreters
  • University of Glasgow: Qualitative Fieldwork in Conflict-Affected Settings
  • University of Glasgow: Modern Standard Arabic Level 1, 2 & 3