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Professor Karen O'Brien, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, stood smiling with arms folded, in front of bookshelves

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Karen O'Brien, explores how we are contributing to the health agenda, locally and globally.

Whoever we are, whatever age, and however we would describe our fitness: health is an important issue for us all.

Here at Durham University we contribute a huge amount to the health agenda – all with the goal of changing lives for the better, including in our city, county and region.

Introducing our new Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Health)

Recently we announced the appointment of our first Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Health): Professor Charlotte Clarke, who has been Executive Dean of our Faculty of Social Sciences and Health since 2019, and who has spent her career working to address health inequalities and stigma. In particular, Charlotte’s research has influenced international health and social care policy and practice in relation to dementia.

Charlotte will work with partners, including in our region, to support us to deliver, even more so, world-class health research and education.

Transforming health locally

Much of this work locally comes out of the very close working relationship we have with the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT), which based on a strong Memorandum of Understanding, signed last year.

Earlier this month, CDDFT leaders visited our campus to see our work for themselves. They met Durham chemists working to tackle infectious diseases; psychologists expanding our understanding of neurodiversity; and mathematicians advising on many NHS clinical studies.

This built on a showcase event held in May, which brought together the University, CDDFT, Durham County Council and others to explore how we can improve health and social care, through the County Durham Care Partnership.

Global impact

Durham health research is also transforming lives globally: from understanding the impact of urban pollution on brain health to building community resilience in the face of natural disasters. This is the case for all our research.

We are very proud that Professor Harriet Bulkeley, from our Geography Department, whose research explores solutions in environmental management – with the aim of maintaining a health environment, was awarded an OBE in the King’s Birthday Honours.

It was all this work and more that was recognised last week, when Durham was ranked joint 36th in the world in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings – a prestigious global league table that assesses over 1,400 universities on their contribution to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is a great example of how Durham leading the world is bringing real benefits for our local communities.

With strengthened leadership and thriving local partnerships, we’re confident we can help, even further, people to thrive in the places they live, globally and locally. 

Find out more

- Meet our new Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Health), Professor Charlotte Clarke
- Explore our Health at Durham programme
- Read about Professor Harriet Bulkeley's royal honour
- We're joint 36th globally in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings