The Observatory Team

We are a multidisciplinary research group, drawing on expertise from medicine, public health, social sciences, and health informatics.

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  1. The Observatory Team
  2. The Steering Committee

Professor Anna Cooper

Anna leads the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory. The Scottish Government pays for the Observatory.

She wants the Observatory to make Scotland fairer and healthier for people with learning disabilities and their families, by:

  • Finding out the health problems people have
  • Finding out how good or bad health care is
  • Telling people about health and health care problems
  • Finding ways to make health and health care better
  • Checking if health gets better or worse over time
  • Helping the Scottish Government, and staff who provide health and social services, to get it right for people with learning disabilities

Anna is a doctor. She works at Glasgow University, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. She has done a lot of studies on the health of people with learning disabilities. 

Anna’s full name is Professor Sally-Ann Cooper.

Click here to find out more about Anna

Professor Jill Pell

The Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory is based in the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at Glasgow University; Professor Jill Pell is Director of this Institute. She is an expert in Public Health.

Jill also has another role as Honorary Consultant in Public Health in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Jill’s main research interests are in:

  • Long term conditions like diabetes
  • Maternal and child health
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

A lot of her research draws on different administrative data and uses data linkage methods to help answer important public health questions. For example, Jill is leading research which will help to understand the different things associated with additional educational support needs.

Click here to to find out more about Jill

Professor Colin McCowan

Colin is a Professor of Health Informatics at the Robertson Centre for Biostatistics, at Glasgow University. This is one of the biggest clinical trials centres in the UK. The West of Scotland Safe Haven is also based at the Robertson Centre and is jointly run by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. This provides a secure place to enable access to sensitive, routine data for research.

Colin’s main interests are in the use of routine, administrative data in epidemiological studies.

Click here to find out more information about Colin

Professor Nick Watson

Nick is Director of the Centre for Disability Research at the University of Glasgow and also of 'What Works Scotland'. 

The Centre for Disability Research is one the United Kingdom’s largest research centres looking at disability. The Centre's programme of work is focused on a wide range of areas including disabled children and schools, the use of aids to daily living, growing older as a disabled person and how we can best provide support and care to disabled people. 

What Works Scotland is a centre that looks at how we can change the way that the Government and Local Authorities provide services that are based on what people want and are delivered in a way that they find useful.

Nick’s main areas of research include disability hate crime, health and social care integration, Self Directed Support and Independent Living.  

Nick will be supporting the development of the qualitative research programme at the Observatory. This includes looking at the impact of hate crime on the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities.

Click here to find out more information about Nick

Angela Henderson

Angela is the Deputy Director of the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory. 

Before Angela started working at the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory she worked at the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability. She was Head of Policy and Research.  Angela has worked on lots of different learning disability projects, she is interested in how evidence is used in policy making.

Angela is involved in a lot of projects at the Observatory. These include:

  • Helping to set up the SPIRE learning disabilities data project
  • Analysing information about drug prescribing for people with learning disabilities

Angela believes that the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory can help to achieve more equality and social justice for people with learning disabilities by improving the evidence available to help policy makers and practitioners to take action to improve the health of people with learning disabilities and people with autism.

You can find out more information about Angela here

Dr Deborah Kinnear

Deborah is a Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow and works for the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory. She is interested in finding out ways to improve the health of people with learning disabilities and their families. Deborah developed this interest whilst working as a research psychologist and also whilst working with people with learning disabilities and their family members.

Deborah is currently exploring a number of areas including:

  • Physical health of people with learning disabilities
  • Oral health of people with learning disabilities
  • Carers mental health

Deborah hopes that the information she collects will help improve quality and access to healthcare for people with learning disabilities and their family carers.

Click here to find out more about Deborah

Dr Ewelina Rydzewska

Ewelina works as a Research Associate at the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory at the University of Glasgow. Before joining the team, she was part of Autism Network Scotland team at the University of Strathclyde where she had an opportunity to work closely with people with autism spectrum disorder, their families, practitioners, policy makers as well as researchers with particular interests in autism.

In the past Ewelina has been involved in a number of research projects on autism conducted both within academia and other sectors. In her work at the Observatory she is investigating health needs of people on the spectrum. She is currently looking at Scotland's Census data around developmental disorders.

Find out more about Ewelina here

Dr Phillippa Wiseman

Phillippa joined the team at the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory in February 2015. She is a sociologist and a researcher and is interested in disability and equality and this is why she wanted to contribute to the Observatory. Before she began working at the SLDO she finished her PhD at the University of Glasgow.

She has worked as a researcher on a number of projects that have looked at health and inequality for disabled people. She is also interested in the ways in which disabled people can be socially excluded and how this makes them feel.

Phillippa is currently working on a project that will look at hate crime, violence and harassment towards people with learning disabilities. She is interested in how this makes them feel and the impact that it has on their wellbeing and their everyday lives.

Find out more about Phillippa here

Dr Lisa O'Leary

Lisa works as a researcher in the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory at the University of Glasgow. Prior to taking on this role, she completed a PhD at the University of Ulster. She is interested in finding out ways to improve the health of people with learning disabilities and their families. She developed this interest whilst working as social care worker and also whilst working on various research projects focussed on the health promotion needs of people with learning disabilities.

She is currently investigating causes of death and life expectancy of people with learning disabilities in her role at the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory. She hopes that the information that she collects will help improve quality and access to healthcare for people with learning disabilities. She also hopes that this information will help prevent avoidable deaths of people with learning disabilities in the future.

Find out more information about Lisa here

Laura Hughes McCormack

Laura is a researcher working for the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory at the University of Glasgow. She is looking at the health needs of people with learning disabilities in primary care services, such as GP practices.

She wants the Observatory to help improve the health of people with learning disabilities in Scotland, by;

  • Finding out more about what the health needs are
  • Bringing attention to unrecognised disease
  • Improving recording of health in General Practices
  • Improving management of chronic diseases 

Laura studied Psychology at the University of Stirling from 2003-2007 and at the University of the West of Scotland from 2009-2014. She has worked with people with learning disabilities in her previous roles as a Befriender, a Learning Assistant and an Assistant Psychologist.

Find out more about Laura here

Kirsty Dunn

Kirsty has been working in the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory as a research assistant since 2015 and has recently started a PhD. Her PhD will examine the mental health of fathers who care for their son or daughter with learning disabilities. This project is important as more fathers are now taking an active caregiving role and yet there is very little research in this area. We need to find out more about the mental health of father carers and their experiences of support services. This may inform service providers and policy makers about how they can better support fathers.

By conducting analysis of Scotland’s Census 2011, Kirsty will find out about father carers’ mental health and what factors are associated with poor mental health. The Census will allow her to identify the whole population of father carers in Scotland, making this study unique. Kirsty will also conduct interviews with father carers to learn more about their experiences of caring for their son or daughter with learning disabilities.

This study will increase our understanding of the mental health of father carers living in Scotland, ensuring that they can be provided with the right information and the right support, which will be beneficial not only to them but also to the care they provide for their son or daughter.

Find out more about Kirsty here

Marian Okon

Marian is a part-time Research Assistant in the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory at the University of Glasgow. Prior to this role, she worked as a biomedical scientist/public health scientist for five years. She has been involved in various research projects including behavioural studies on alcohol and environmental health. She is interested in health research that relates specifically to promoting healthy lifestyles in people with learning disabilities.

Marian studied Biomedical Science at the University of Calabar, Nigeria from 2003-2008 and did a Masters in Public Health (MPH) at the University of Glasgow from 2013-2014. She is currently studying for her PHD at the University of Glasgow. She is also experienced in supporting people with learning disabilities to achieve independent and healthy lives.

Sandra Auchterlonie

Sandra is the administrator for the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory on a part-time basis.  She will be the first point of contact for the team and will be happy to assist you.

She will be publishing regular updates on the work of the Observatory on our website and assisting with our social media posts.