Research Into Fibromyalgia Earns Award for Stefanie Doebl

It quickly became apparent that when it comes to designing better healthcare services, there is a real need for improvement for those with fibromyalgia. “Stephanie Doebl

Fibromyalgia is an extremely painful condition. It is a chronic condition which causes pain around the body, muscle stiffness and fatigue.

It is estimated that between 1.5-2 million people in the UK suffer from fibromyalgia but it remains poorly understood. There is no cure for fibromyalgia but there are therapeutic  treatments that can reduce the impact of fibromyalgia symptoms on a person’s life.

Stefanie Doebl, who is in the third year of a PhD based in the Epidemiology Group within the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, has been recognised for her ‘outstanding academic excellence in postgraduate researchers’ for her work on Fibromyalgia.

Stefanie conducted a range of interviews and a survey with people with fibromyalgia with the aim of finding new ways to improve healthcare delivery for patients.

She drew on her background as a social worker to better understand the experiences of those with the chronic condition.

Stefanie said:

“I spent more than a decade in social work with much of the time focused on primary health care and community mental health. I wanted to use my knowledge and experiences for health services research.

“It quickly became apparent that when it comes to designing better healthcare services, there is a real need for improvement for those with fibromyalgia.

“There is still limited awareness and understanding about this condition, its impact on people’s lives and their healthcare needs.”

Stefanie, who was able to embark on her PhD thanks to an Institute of Applied Health Sciences (IAHS) Studentship and Elphinstone Scholarship from the University of Aberdeen.

She was awarded the 2020 British Federation of Women Graduates (BFWG) Johnstone & Florence Stoney Prize.

Commenting on the award Stephanie said:

“It felt amazing and really special to me personally to be chosen whilst competing with incredibly talented female students across all fields of research.

“Despite the competition, it was a very friendly atmosphere and it has been an honour to see my work chosen by a panel made up of such inspirational women.

“I am delighted that they saw the importance and value of my research and its potential to have a really positive impact on healthcare delivery for fibromyalgia.”

The Prize follows a long line of awards for Stefanie, who is only the second person in her extended family to go to university, and the first to undertake a PhD.

Last year she won the inaugural Images of Research competition hosted by the Postgraduate Research School at the University of Aberdeen and was shortlisted for the 2020 Principal’s Excellence Awards.

“Up until a few years ago, I never imagined I would do research but while working in primary health care social work, I realised the very limited research available for my field and saw the potential to improve this.

“Allied health professionals have an enormous amount of knowledge, skills and experiences which could help to improve services across the whole healthcare system.

“But I couldn’t have done it without the IAHS Studentship and Elphinstone Scholarship. I’ve also been awarded IAHS Staff Development funds twice to enable me to present at conferences and received a Santander Mobility Award 2020 from the University of Aberdeen. These kinds of support and the BFWG award have allowed me to take my PhD journey even further.”

“The support from my supervisors has been amazing and I would encourage other allied health professionals thinking about doing research to go for it. Having people from a variety of professions makes health services research stronger and more representative.”

Stefanie’s supervisors Professor Gary Macfarlane and Dr Rosemary Hollick said:

“We are delighted at this award for Stefanie which reflects the fact that her study is the first of its kind in this common condition and the fact that she has worked incredibly hard”

Stefanie’s research provides the foundation for a major programme of work, namely ‘PAtient-centred Care for Fibromyalgia: New pathway Design’ (PACFIND), which aims to develop a new model of care for fibromyalgia not only in the UK but also internationally.

The wider study was awarded a £1.3 million programme grant from Versus Arthritis (formerly Arthritis Research UK). Further, Stefanie’s qualitative interviews will be used to construct a new section for fibromyalgia on the award-winning website

To find out more about Fibromyalgia click on this link: Fibromyalgia

Archived article: Fibromyalgia May Affect 1 in 20 People

3 replies »

  1. What a great piece of work Stefanie Doebl is doing. Also well done to your newspaper for highlighting this little known condition.
    My wife had an aunt who suffered, with a capital “S”, from this condition. It is obvious from what Stefanie is saying that my wife’s aunt was not alone.
    Little seems to be known about what causes the condition so a cure is a long way off. Meantime therefore the hope has to be that, at the very east, a treatment can be found to give people suffering from this condition additional relief.
    Congratulations to Stephanie for all of her success to date. I wish her, and others, all the best researching this terribly debilitating condition

    • I am one of the people involved in this study and was interviewed by Stephanie for this project ,she was so professional and empathetic,when listening to my own personal experiences with this highly debilitating disease .And was surprised and shocked to learn of others experiences,
      it was a pleasure to be listened to and heard ,I am absolutely sure that Stephanie’s understanding of her interviewees and knowledge gained on this subject will help design a pathway forward from this living nightmare.
      Well done Stephanie

Leave a Reply