Institute of Health & Society

Staff Profile

Professor Simon Forrest




I joined the Institute for Health Society in August 2017 having been in the School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health at Durham University occupying the role of Head of School (2014-2017) and having (since 2016) a substantive academic post as Professor of Social Sciences in Medicine and Health.

 My academic interests are in sexual health and especially the promotion of the sexual wellbeing of young people through education. I was involved in the UK’s first and largest RCT of peer-led approaches to sex education (the RIPPLE Trial) when I worked at UCL (RIPPLE), and have subsequently worked on projects engaging medical students in peer-led interventions and supported the initial group of students who founded what is now a UK-wide network covering all 32 medical schools: Sexpression. From an interest in HIV/Aids and sexual health I have developed a special interest in gender and sexualities with a focus on masculinities and health and published on both MSM and gay men’s health and masculinities in the UK and overseas.  I have worked with and now Chair the Board of Trustees of AVERT, one of the most world’s largest providers of HIV/Aids information, led the UK’s national umbrella organisations for policy and practice development in sex and relationships education, the Sex Education Forum and been involved in the development of educational, practice and policy resources including the UK’s first book supporting talking about homosexuality in the secondary school sector, governmental guidance on peer-led approaches to health promotion with young people and background research supporting the National Chlamydia Screening Campaign programme to target boys and young men.

 My interest in health and education is paralleled by my involvement in medical education and medical education research. I lead a Medicine in the Community strand in UG medical education provided by Newcastle University at Durham which provides a uniquely deep and experientially informed introduction to the social basis and context of medicine and health for doctors of the future. This interest in developing curriculum which support student socio-cultural understanding of public health, social and health inequalities and health systems through ‘real world’ experience has resulted in the award of several grants from the Higher Education Academy and Sir Ron Cooke International Scholar status in 2013.You can read about some of my work with colleagues in Australia on this issue here learningtodoctor.

I chair the UK’s national network of Behavioural and Social Scientists Teaching in medicine (BeSST). We recently published the UK’s first core curriculum for sociology in medical education, a companion to the network’s core curriculum for psychology published in 2012.

Areas of Expertise 

My areas of expertise relate to:

Gender, sex, sexualities health with a focus on young people

Teaching and learning of the social sciences in medical education

You can also find me at:


BA (Hons) Expressive Arts, 1987, Brighton Polytechnic

MA(Ed), 1999 Canterbury Christ Church University College 

PhD Sociology, 2008, The Open University


Previous Positions

Head of the School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, Durham University, 2014-17

Senior Teaching Fellow, Durham University, 2011-2014

Director of Sex Education Forum, 2002-03

Research Fellow, Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, UCL 1997-2002

Research Fellow Centre for health Education & Research, Canterbury Christ Church University College 1993-1997

Health Promotion Adviser 1991-1993



Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Associate of the Higher Education Academy

Association for the Study of Medical Education

Association for Medical Education in Europe

British Sociological Association


Measures of Esteem

Sir Ron Cooke International Scholar, Higher Education Academy, 2013

Chair of BeSST (Behavioural and Social Scientists Teaching in medicine), 2010 -

Member of College of Experts, NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme, 2010 -

Chair of Board of Trustees and Secretary of AVERT (AIDS Education & research Trust), 2009 - 

Honorary Senior Lecturer in Adolescent Sexual Health, St George’s Hospital Medical School & Kingston University, 2003-05

Visiting Fellow, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, 2001-2006


Research Interests

My interests are both applied and theoretical. I am committed to research which adds to the evidence base and also our understanding of the sexual behaviour, attitudes and experience of young people and how their rights to health and happiness might be promoted and protected through education and other interventions. I am particularly interested in how we can use applied work in fields such as sexual health education and promotion to inform thinking about how we conceptualise gender and sexuality, produce categories such as 'young people' and imagine or understand the 'problems' of sexuality and sexual health and behaviour. I see my work as aligning with the UN's SDGs, especially with regard to the outcomes framed within SDGs 3,4 and 5 around HIV/Aids, sexual and reproductive health, young people's rights to information and education that promotes and protects diversity gender equality and ensures freedom from sexual discrimination, oppression and violence

My interests in promoting the sociological imagination and approach of thinking about these issues as a way of making our work to protect and promote better and more relevant and effective, informs my contribution to pedagogical research especially in medical education. I  am interested here to find ways of ensuring that doctors of the future, as powerful agents and actors in health and society, have a real understanding of the social basis and context of people'e lives and health experiences. I am particularly interested in how we can promote experiential learning contexts as ways of helping medical students (and others) develop their knowledge and understanding of these issues and true social sense of health. 

I have an emerging interest in the particular issue of consent, especially in the context of sexual relationships and health promotion/education interventions. I am aiming to consider consent from multiple perspectives constellating around the idea of it as an embodied cultural practice, framed within ethical-moral-legal discourse and a framework of human rights. 

Postgraduate Research Student Supervision

Deeni Rudita Idris - investigating men's health, masculinities and health service utilisation amongst men in Brunei

Emma Dobson - investigating peer-led approaches to Sex and Relationships in Education in  school settings 

Naresh Serou - investigating the effect of surgical incidents on operating theatre staff 

Lara Ahmaro - investigating chalrmyidaa screening for young people in community pharmacy settings 

Simon Leggatt - investigating male students experiences of homophobia 



In 2017-18 I will be leading the Medicine in the Community (MiC) Strand within the Phase 1 MBBS programme of medical education offered by Newcastle University at Durham.


MiC uses a mixed portfolio of lectures, tutorials and experiential learning through a community placement to support students to examine and explore in some depth notions of personal identity – for example, culture and disability – societal attitudes to death, dying and bereavement, and complementary and alternative medicine. Other key threads of the strand build on basic insights into epidemiology and public health  to explore the doctor’s role within preventive health and provide a introduction to research methods to deepen students' grasp of qualitative approaches with especial reference to their Community Placement .  



I am open to hearing from PGT students with an interest in projects that touch on either sexual health promotion, gender, sexuality or medical education