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Melissa Stepney

BA (Hons), MSc, PhD


Senior Researcher, CHiMES Collaborative

  • • Level 5 Coaching Professional coach & mentor
  • • Member of European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC)
  • • Qualitative methodologist NIHR Research Design Service
  • • NIHR Academy member

I am a social and cultural geographer with research interests in young people’s health, mental health and gender, with a focus on social justice and health inequalities. Since joining the University of Oxford in 2015 and as a qualitative methodologist for the NIHR Research Design Service (now RSS), I have extensive experience of designing and analysing qualitative research in the field of health and social care, with an interest in creative research methods and dissemination routes (video, photo, drawing, art-based, animation etc).

I joined the CHiMES Collaborative in 2023 to work on the Oxford Health BRC Mental Health in Development theme on co-developing innovative and creative models of engagement with marginalised and diverse young people. This work seeks to better understand research methods that prioritise the experiences and views of children and young people.

I am Principle Investigator for an NIHR funded study on the health and care needs of young trans and gender diverse people. Working alongside fantastic charity partners and community organisations, we interviewed over 90 young people, parents/carers and health professionals. This project culminated in an educational and comprehensive online resource on the award-winning website Healthtalk.orgHere you can hear young gender diverse people as well as parents/carers talk about their experiences through video, audio and written clips. The resource aims to support other trans youth, family members/friends as well as inform health professionals and the wider public about the health needs of young trans people.

Prior to this, I have worked as a qualitative researcher evaluating new models of care in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in England. Increased demand for CAMHS, alongside evidence that services are not meeting the needs of young people, have led to the re-organisation of some CAMHS to improve accessibility, quality of care and health outcomes. This mixed methods project included both qualitative methods and an economic evaluation to help understand the complexity of CAMHS re-organisation, and the impact these changes were having on young people and their families. I led the qualitative component which included in-depth interviews with young people, families and CAMHS staff, alongside ethnographic observation and documentary analysis.

My PhD examined youth, gender and drinking cultures at the University of Reading before taking up a position as a Human Geography Lecturer at the University of Worcester.  I have a long-standing interest in psychoanalytic theory and how the (un)conscious shapes our everyday experiences, behaviours, health and wellbeing.