Kylie Fagan, PhD student and Magnusson Award winner

I’m passionate about giving people a voice in local health care and I’m in my second year of a PhD that looks at how innovative communities across rural Scotland are becoming more engaged in their local health services.

My PhD focuses on the Nuka System of Care as a model of co-produced healthcare and looks at how this model is being adapted for use here in Scotland. Translated as “giant living things”, Nuka is a Native Alaskan system which sees teams of health-care professionals work collaboratively with indigenous communities. It centres on giving people a strong voice in their own healthcare services and sees individuals and families as key partners for the creation of health and wellbeing.

My interest was sparked back in 2011 whilst working on a community development project in the Highlands. I had wanted to see Nuka in practice for years and, when the opportunity to apply for the Magnusson Awards came around I knew that there was only one thing that I could base my application around. I was thrilled to be awarded the Merchants House Magnusson Award to fund a trip to Anchorage to visit Nuka and travelled to Alaska in September.

It had never occurred to me that the University would invest in me in that way and I would never have had that opportunity without the fantastic support from GCU. During my trip I was able to visit  locations across Alaska to see how the model worked in practice and was even invited to undertake intense internal training sessions alongside Nuka staff which gave me a fantastic window into the inner workings of this service.

Nuka’s amazing results are sparking a lot of interest within the Scottish healthcare system as health boards look at modernising primary care services. Without having seen it for myself, I don’t think I would be able to fully understand and appreciate this model and, more importantly, would not be able to share this learning with the communities across Scotland who I’ll be working with over the course of my PhD.

Seeing the Nuka model in practice has given me hope that a more collaborative, community-led healthcare service is possible and I believe that this experience will help me to better engage with those communities who are at the forefront of this work here in Scotland.