Unique Scientist: Dr. Rory McGill

Time to meet Dr. Rory McGill (He/him)! Dr. McGill is a health psychologist by training originally from Ireland but currently living in England!

What kind of scientist are you?
I have a PhD in health psychology which led me to working in academic public health for many years. I found academia to be too focused on the theory rather than the practice of public health so I began training to be a public health consultant. Public health is the only specialty for which the training programme is open to applicants from both medical and other backgrounds.

The training programme lasts for five years – I am currently in my fourth year. This role embraces three domains of public health work: prevention of ill health, promotion of healthy life styles and provision of good health care services.

The beauty of training means I can scientifically pursue some of my own passions, such as exploring the health inequalities faced by older LGB people and becoming better acquainted with behavioural science methodologies.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I wanted to become a scientist as I had a passion for making sense of complex issues and trying to make the world a better place.

“I grew up within a very deprived background. [My mom] once had to burn her own shoes as we ran out of coal to heat our home.”

Dr. Rory McGill

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I grew up within a very deprived background. Our treat was being able to have burger meat at Christmas time; my mother improvised a table from an orange crate and she once had to burn her own shoes as we ran out of coal to heat our home. I was raised by a single mother with an absent father who had alcohol dependency. I was very lucky to have been born at a time where I received financial aid to go to university, otherwise we could not have afforded it.

I am also a gay man. I came out when I was 15 and being raised catholic in Ireland this was a scary proposition! However I received nothing but love from my friends and family which meant it was the easiest thing in the world!

The intersectionality between being a member of a sexual minority group and being from a lower socioeconomic position (both of which are known to have worse health outcomes) gives me a unique insight into the narrative of people like me who may benefit the most from egalitarian population level public health measures. I am now in a position to influence national policy to help those who are like me which is a great feeling.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I LOVE video games! I am an avid gamer – particularly survival horror, Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPG) and fighting games. I formed some of my best relationships with people who share this hobby and we still get together to this day and play through our favourite ones!
I am also obsessed with Halloween – Derry in Ireland where I am from is “the best Halloween destination in the world” according to USA today. It really is! So my love of video games takes the form of cosplay which dovetails both of those things quite nicely!

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I think it would be to make it more inclusive by highlighting how diverse the discipline really is. The umbrella of science is broader than most people are aware of. Public health has been described as both an art and a science and I see my role as merging both these principles to help people. There is an art to science that I think should be promoted as a creative outlet to our younger generation – it is not all mathematics and physics (but those are important too!)

“There is an art to science that I think should be promoted as a creative outlet to our younger generation.”

Dr. Rory McGill

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
I seek a lot of my inspiration from strong women in fiction. I always watch Legally Blonde before an exam (Elle Woods is such a good role model!) and I always find Buffy the Vampire Slayer very inspiring as she never quits against impossible odds and seeks the strength of a good support network.

Outside of fiction, my mother is a constant inspiration, and I thank her every day for her sacrifices to allow me to pursue my dream and give back to other people like us.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I helped launch the National Behavioural and Social Science strategy at a regional level in the North West of England via talking at a conference which was daunting; but it is really rewarding to be at the forefront of an exciting time for the integration of behavioural and social science within public health across England!

Outside of science I was “man of honour” at my best friends wedding last week which was awesome and I managed not to mess up my speech!


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