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Dr Sofia Vougioukalou


Research Fellow, Y Lab

School of Medicine

+44 29208 79872
sbarc|spark, Room floor 2, Maindy Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ


I hold a British Academy Innovation Fellowship exploring the policy links of creative social prescribing for older people experiencing dementia and social isolation. I also work on the following projects:

  • Communicable diseases service mapping for refugee and asylum seeking populations across Wales (Public Health Wales)
  • The use of restrictive practices in the care of people living with dementia in hospital (National Institute for Health Research)
  • Addressing the Barriers to Inclusive Cycling in Wales (Learned Society of Wales)

I was previously researching the processes of embedding innovation through creativity in health and social care settings as part of the Health Arts Research People (HARP) programme.

I am an associate editor at the Arts & Health journal, co-convenor of the Migration, Ethinicity and Diversity (MEAD) research group and sit on the leadership team of the Wellbeing Research Network of the Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD). I am also a member of the Health and Care Research Wales Equality Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group and the All Wales Deaf Mental Health and Wellbeing working group. In 2021, I was the recipient of the Dementia Friendly Wales Diversity Award by the Alzheimer's Society Wales and the Public Involvement Award by Health and Care Research Wales. In 2022, I received the Celebrating Excellence Award in Civic Mission by Cardiff University. In 2023, I received a Highly Meritorious Award for my work in Science, Technology and Healthcare by the Ethnic Minority Welsh Women Achievement Association. 


I am a qualitative health services researcher with a background in medical anthropology, user-centred design and evaluation. I have experience of co-production in healthcare settings using Experience-Based Co-Design, Appreciative Inquiry, Participatory Action Research and Participatory Rural Appraisal. My past research has contributed to the evaluation and foundational understanding of the integration of lay and experiential knowledge into health service improvement for long-term conditions such as cancer and dementia. I use approaches of medical anthropology such as ethnographic and visual methods to understand patients’ experiences of illness, treatment and survivorship. I use patient and public involvement and engagement to identify culturally-appropriate ways to engage service users in research, service improvement and impact-generating activities. My goal is to contribute to the delivery of speedier inexpensive innovation in health and social care services through engaged research.














  • Vougioukalou, S. 2010. Responding to the 'big society': flexible curriculum development for the voluntary sector. Presented at: University Vocational Awards Council Annual Conference, York, England, 11-12 November 2010 Presented at University Vocational Awards Council, . ed.The Future Agenda for Higher Level Skills and Work-Based Learning Seminar Papers from the University Vocational Awards Council Annual Conference. Bolton: University Vocational Awards Council pp. 35-46.



Book sections





Creative Ageing and Social Prescribing (British Academy)

The British Academy Innovation Fellowship scheme is designed to enable researchers in the humanities and social sciences to partner with organisations and business in the creative and cultural, public, private and policy sectors in order to address challenges that require innovative approaches and solutions. It allows an established researcher to work with a UK-based partner organisation on a specified policy or societal challenge. 'Creative ageing and social prescribing: Bridging the gap between diverse service users, service providers and policy makers in Wales', will be carried out partnership with the Arts Council for Wales and 11 organisations across Wales who deliver exemplary creative interventions to older people.

Arts and Health (Arts Council Wales)

I am the lead researcher in Y Lab's Health, Arts, Research and People (HARP) programme. In this programme, I am researching the process and impact of embedding innovation within arts and health practice in 17 teams across Wales. I also convene the Public Involvement and Patient Experience in arts and health Research (PIPER) group which provides the service user voice of expertise to our research and innovation programme.

Dementia and Diversity (Higher Education Funding Council for Wales)

I recently completed a research and engagement project looking at the dementia care experiences of under-represent groups in relation to ethnicity, disability and sexuality. Three performances were developed with public involvement input to communicate the dementia care experiences of D/deaf, ethnic minority and gay communities.


I am currently in a research-only post and I deliver guest lectures on arts and health, dementia and health inequalities and social prescribing.


I am a medical anthropologist, with expertise in qualitative health services research with a focus of harnessing and integrating service user and service provider experiences in quality improvement. Arts for heath and creative methodologies are key aspects of this work as they help overcome linguistic and cultural communication barriers, enhance participant’ wellbeing and catalyse impact to professional and lay audiences.

My PhD examined lay understandings of illness and medicinal plant use amongst patients receiving medical care within a range of  cultures. I used an ethnobiological approach which is an interdisciplinary methodology combining anthropology and biology that seeks to bridge cultural and biomedical understandings of biological processes. My research programme builds on this and uses qualitative, quantitative and visual methodologies to understand how do patients, carers and healthcare professionals make sense of chronic illness and service provision in the NHS.

I have previously led a programme of research that used innovative creative methodologies to accelerate the unique potential of public involvement in the transformation of public services. My research as principal investigator includes looking into the unique physical, emotional and financial implications of facing cancer while living alone and understanding the needs of hard-to-reach/seldom-heard dementia communities with additional identities regarding  ethnicity, sexuality or disability.

As co-applicant, it includes a programme of National Institute for Health Research studies examining dementia care in hospitals. The first (NIHR £508k) looked at the unique challenges of managing continence and its impact on personhood and physicality with a further successful grant submission (NIHR £1M) on restraint. In both studies I lead the involvement and engagement work-packages which include collaborating with artists patients and carers  to identify and test visual methodologies that have the potential to access hard-to-express experiences of chronic illness.  I am also involved in a cross-service research initiative on the wider role of arts in health for marginalised groups such as refugees, asylum seekers, long-stay hospital patients and care home residents.

I use arts for health to inform health service research, teaching and practice through the development of online platforms. These online resources have been used by educators and policy makers. Since 2016 when I began engaging creative methodologies more formally in health services research. I have also been involved in a participatory action research project in Parc prison where male prisoners were engaged in having a say in the provision of health and well-being services. At the School of Medicine at King’s College London (2011-2013), I evaluated participatory healthcare improvement in two intensive care units and lung cancer services in England

Honours and awards


2023: Highly Meritorious Contribution Award in Science, Healthcare and Technology, Ethnic Minority Welsh Women's Achievement Association

2022: Celebrating Excellence Award in Civic Mission, Cardiff University

2021: Public Invovement Award, Health and Care Research Wales

2021: Dementia Friendly Wales (2021) Diversity Award - Winner (individual category)


Grant funding

2023-2025:  Tailoring cultural offers with and for diverse older users of social prescribing (TOUS): A realist evaluation. UKRI, UKRI, £396,427, co-applicant

2022-2023: Creative ageing and social prescribing: bridging the gap between diverse service users and policy makers. British Academy Innovation Fellowship, £80,000, PI working with Arts Council Wales

2022-2024: Understanding the everyday use of restrictive practices in the care of people living with dementia during a hospital admission: reducing inappropriate use, identifying good practice and alternative approaches to reduce risk and improve care. NIHR, £1M, co-applicant

2019- 2021: ‘Dementia care experiences – understanding diversity, implementing equality, creating shared learning , HEFCW, PI

Nov 2017- 2020: Understanding how to facilitate continence for people with dementia in acute hospital settings: raising awareness and improving care, NIHR (Researcher-led),  £508,000, role: co-applicant with responsibility for patient, carer and public involvement and engagement

Dec 2016-Nov 2017: The human cost of cancer: addressing the unique physical, emotional and financial implications of facing cancer while living alone, Tenovus Cancer Care Innovation Grant, £29,700, PI

2016: Development of a self-sustaining community of Huntington’s disease walkers in Wales, Wellcome Trust ISSF – Public Engagement, £9,700, co-applicant

2012: Assessing participatory research impact and legacy, JISC, £25,000, role: CI with responsibility for health research impact analysis

Academic positions

2022-present: British Academy Innovation Fellow, Y Lab, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

2019-present: Research Fellow in Arts and Health, Y Lab, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

2014- 2019: Research Associate in Health Services Research, School of Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University

2013 - 2014: Public Engagement Associate for Health Research, Elizabeth Blackwell Institute (Wellcome Trust) & Integrative Epidemiology Unit (MRC), University of Bristol

2011- 2013: Research Associate and Research Design Service Advisor, Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King’s College London

2010- 2011: Senior Lecturer in Knowledge Transfer, Centre for Health and Social Care Research, Canterbury Christ Church University

2007-2009: Research and Evaluation Consultant, Department of Social Work, Health and Community, Canterbury Christ Church University

2008-2011: Associate Lecturer, Centre for Flexible Learning  & School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent

2004- 2010: Research and Teaching Assistant, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent

Committees and reviewing

Associate Editor for Arts and Health journal.

Manuscript reviewer for PLOS One, BMJ, Journal of Health Organisation and Management, Ethnography, European Journal of Cancer Care.

Expert reviewer on co-production for grant applications to the National Institute for Health Research and General Nursing Council Trust.

Expert reviewer on black, Asian and minority ethnic dementia care for Alzheimer's Society.


  • Arts and health/creative methodologies
  • Cross-cultural healthcare and ethnic minority health
  • Dementia

Current supervision

Sami Alanazi

Sami Alanazi

Research student