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Trailblazing University of York researchers appointed prestigious NIHR Senior Investigators

Posted on 28 February 2023

The pioneering work of three leading University of York researchers has been recognised by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

Left to right, Professor Yvonne Birks, Professor Simon Gilbody, Professor Catherine Hewitt

Professor Catherine Hewitt, co-director of the York Trials Unit, Professor Yvonne Birks, Associate Dean (Research) Faculty of Social Sciences, and Professor Simon Gilbody, Director of the Mental Health and Addictions Research Group (MHARG) were each awarded the prestigious NIHR Senior Investigator status.

NIHR Senior Investigators are recognised as the most prominent and successful researchers working in health and social care. Their research impact and leadership was judged as internationally outstanding when they were appointed in a highly competitive process.  

Outstanding leaders

The three professors join the body of UK Senior Investigators, comprising the 200 most outstanding leaders of patient and people-based research within the UK health research community. 

Catherine Hewitt is Professor of Medical Statistics, Co-Director of York Trials Unit and Deputy Head of Department (Research) in the Department of Health Sciences. Her pioneering work focuses on the ways in which statistical science can be harnessed to help us understand ‘what works’.

Yvonne Birks is Professor of Applied Social Care Research and Director of the Curiosity Partnership based in the School for Business and Society. Her social care research portfolio largely concentrates on social care for older people with a strong practice-facing and co-production element.  

Simon Gilbody is Professor of Psychological Medicine and Psychiatric Epidemiology, based in Hull York Medical School and the Department of Health Sciences. His work focuses on rigorous epidemiological studies and clinical trials to treat and prevent the epidemic of mental ill health and loneliness in the population. Simon is elected to serve a second 5-year term as NIHR Senior Investigator.

Extremely proud

Professor Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, said: ‘We are extremely proud to see the work of our research leaders recognised in this way, it is a brilliant accolade for their work.  

“York’s research has helped transform the NHS and social care, so to see our internationally regarded programme of research and trials celebrated, is wonderful. The University of York exists for public good and our NIHR Senior Investigators demonstrate how we do this.”


All three Professors undertook their Doctorates in York and have gone on to become distinguished in their field, with their research being highly cited and published in some of the world’s highest-impact journals.

Professor Hewitt and Professor Gilbody have worked together for over 15 years. Their collaboration bore fruit during the COVID pandemic when their BASIL COVID-19 trials produced research that has shown how the psychological impacts of lockdown and social isolation can be tackled at scale.  Their research programme is international, and they are key collaborators in the NIHR IMPACT Global Health Programme which is led by York in partnership with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Professor Birks is an Executive Director for the NIHR School for Social Care research.  She also directs the Curiosity Partnership; a regional capacity-building network to facilitate the understanding, use and production of research in adult social care.

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