Dr Anita Laidlaw

Dr Anita Laidlaw
Senior Lecturer (Education Focused)

Graduating from the University of Edinburgh in 1997 with a BSc (Hons) degree in Biology, I was awarded a PhD in 2001 for a thesis on a behavioural model of itch from the Medical School, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne. Thereafter I completed cognitive behavioural postdoctoral research in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews.

Following my move to the School of Medicine, University of St Andrews my interest in why we respond behaviourally to our environment and cues within it now focuses on healthcare communication (verbal and non-verbal) and the factors that influence it - an interest I explore in both my teaching and research. Previous research includes investigating the impact of social anxiety and facial expression perception on medical students’ communication abilities. I expect to expand these interests in future by examining the role of facial expressions within clinical interviews in more detail, and how, in light of these findings, we can improve training.

I also have an interest in pedagogical research. I run the Medical Education Group within the School of Medicine and I am co-director of the Centre for Higher Education Research within the University. I am also an Associate Director of the Scottish Medical Education Research Consortium (http://www.smerc.org.uk/). My specific interests include assessment and training of clinical communication, psychological wellbeing in undergraduates and resiliency.

I am involved in teaching clinical communication and health psychology to all three medical undergraduate years and run the MD5002 Health Psychology MSc module ‘Quality of life, communication and chronic illness’.

School Roles

  • Module controller: MD5002
  • Deputy module controller: MD3002
  • Teaching Management: Convenor of Clinical Communication Skills
  • Personal Tutor
data source: symbiosis

Research Overview from research@st-andrews

I have two main areas of research, which significantly overlap; healthcare communication and higher education research. This work draws heavily on theory from experimental and health psychology and also educational theory.

Cognitive influences on communication:

I investigate factors that influence communication within a healthcare setting and translation of this research by examining how to improve clinical communication training. This focuses particularly on the role of emotion within healthcare interactions, and the use of reflection in clinical communication training. Examples of projects in this area have included:


  • Patient and healthcare practitioner influences on discussion of weight management within primary care.

  • Recognition of and response to patient emotion expression by medical students

  • Communication anxiety in medical students.

  • Identification of, and assistance for, medical students with poorly performing clinical communication.

Higher education research:

I also have an interest in higher education research particularly in two areas:

  • Student wellbeing (both physical and psychological) and help seeking behaviour.
  • Research skills and attributes within medical education.

Recent publications listed in research@st-andrews
25 (of 33 published available) for ahl1 (source: University of St Andrews PURE)
Please click title of any item for full details

Adherence Anita Helen Laidlaw
 2019 pp.92
An analysis of directly observed weight communication processes between primary care practitioners and overweight patients Calum Thomas McHale, Joanne Elizabeth Cecil, Anita Helen Laidlaw
Patient Education and Counseling  vol.In press 
Talking about weight talk Anita Helen Laidlaw, Cathryn Napier, Fergus Gilmour Neville, Alex Collinson, Joanne Elizabeth Cecil
Journal of Communication in Healthcare   vol.Latest Articles 
Foundation Year 2 doctors’ reasons for leaving UK medicine SE Smith, VR Tallentire, L Pope, Anita Helen Laidlaw, J Morrison
BMJ Open 2018 vol.8 
Direct observation of weight-related communication in primary care Calum Thomas McHale, Anita Helen Laidlaw, Joanne Elizabeth Cecil
Family Practice: the International Journal for Research in Primary Care 2016 vol.33 pp.327-345
Understanding undergraduate student perceptions of mental health, mental well-being and help-seeking behaviour Anita Helen Laidlaw, Julie McLellan, Gozde Ozakinci
Studies in Higher Education 2016 vol.41 pp.2156-2168
Talk weight Anita Helen Laidlaw, Calum Thomas McHale, Heather Locke, Joanne Elizabeth Cecil
Primary Health Care Research & Development 2015 vol.16 pp.309-315
Anxiety and self-awareness in video feedback Emma Lindon-Morris, Anita Helen Laidlaw
The Clinical Teacher 2014 vol.11 pp.174 - 178
Behaviour and burnout in medical students Joanne Elizabeth Cecil, Calum Thomas McHale, Jo Hart, Anita Helen Laidlaw
Medical Education Online 2014 vol.19 
National survey of clinical communication assessment in medical education in the United Kingdom (UK) Anita Helen Laidlaw, Helen Salisbury, Eva M Doherty, Connie Wiskin
BMC Medical Education 2014 vol.14 
The development and evaluation of a flexible training course: "Understanding and developing compassion" Anita Helen Laidlaw, Jennifer Hunter, Tony Turvey, Matt Stillman, Rob Warren, Gozde Ozakinci
Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies 2014 vol.14 pp.149-157
How do United Kingdom (UK) medical schools identify and support undergraduate medical students who ‘fail’ communication assessments? Connie Wiskin, Eva Doherty, Martin von Fragstein, Anita Helen Laidlaw, Helen Salisbury
BMC Medical Education 2013 vol.13 
How do medical students respond to emotional cues and concerns expressed by simulated patients during OSCE consultations? - A multilevel study Yuefang Zhou, Alex Collinson, Anita Helen Laidlaw, Gerald Michael Humphris
PLoS One 2013 vol.8 pp.1-9
Perceptions of postnatal care Julie McLellan, Anita Helen Laidlaw
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013 vol.13 
Anxiety about anxiety in medical students Fergus Gilmour Neville, Anita Helen Laidlaw, Robert Warren, Gozde Ozakinci
The Clinical Teacher 2012 vol.9 pp.330-333
Developing research skills in medical students Anita Helen Laidlaw, James Fortune Aiton, Julie Struthers, Simon Guild
Medical Teacher 2012 vol.34 pp.754-771
Carrot or Stick? Medical professionalism education and students perceptions Vitor Fialho Lopes, Ruth Cruickshank, Anita Helen Laidlaw
Association of Young Scientists and Clinicians Journal 2010 vol.1 pp.20 - 26
Workshop: A new outcome a new challenge Julie Struthers, James Fortune Aiton, Anita Helen Laidlaw, Simon Guild
Yellow card: one year on Ruth Cruickshank, Veronica O'Carroll, Anita Helen Laidlaw, Predrag Bjelogrlic
Graduate attributes in the disciplines of Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine: a survey of expert opinions Anita Helen Laidlaw, Simon Guild, Julie Struthers
BMC Medical Education 2009 vol.9 
Micro-expression recognition training in medical students: a pilot study Jennifer Endres, Anita Helen Laidlaw
BMC Medical Education 2009 vol.9 
Social anxiety in medical students: Implications for communication skills teaching Anita Helen Laidlaw
Medical Teacher 2009 vol.31 pp.649-654