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Arabella Simpkin

MA, BMBCh, MRCPCH, MMSc (Med Ed)


DPhil Student

My research focuses on medical decision-making, with particular emphasis on how best to acknowledge and communicate uncertainty.

Pressures on physicians to minimize or even dismiss uncertainty in clinical care are large and growing, and physician discomfort with uncertainty can impede open, honest and respectful communication with patients, undercutting the patient-provider relationship and decreasing trust. Yet, uncertainty is ubiquitous in medicine. The relationship that embracing uncertainty has on the creation of trust in patient-physician relationships is currently unknown.

We are working to develop a pre-clinical platform, a "Trust Lab", for assessing the impact of potential interventions on trust creation using oxytocin as a biomarker. We then plan to implement successful interventions into primary care practices to see if higher levels of patient trust in physicians results.

This study promises the chance to bring biomarkers to the study of trust; to determine whether improving the communication of uncertainty impacts trust; and to provide the foundations of a "Trust Lab" where new interventions could be tested, with short-term neuro-humoral markers, before being moved into practice.

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