Gillian Fowler - PhD

Gillian Fowler
Having suffered a broken back in a horse-riding accident in 2008, Dr Gillian Fowler has used her own experience with spinal injury as the main focus of her PhD studies at RGU to help others dealing with similar issues to move forward in a positive, fulfilling way.

As a result of the accident, Gillian from Stonehaven sustained short-term paralysis and years of surgeries but had a strong desire to support others with walking spinal injuries or conditions. Gillian has also set up her own not-for-profit organisation, BackStrong, which offers support to patients and their families.

This is the third qualification Gillian has completed at RGU and follows BA Publishing Studies and MSc Marketing. Gillian is delighted to have successfully completed her PhD, to which examines the impact coaching and mentoring has on the Walk Spinal Community’s behavioural change and motivations to being physically active. A Chartered and Fellow marketer with over 20 years’ experience, Gillian was determined to finish her PhD in a timely manner, and took the decision to step away from her corporate career for the final few months, using the time to give focus as well as time with the family. She did, however, continue with her own mindset coaching business, Usana Mindset, which also sees clients head out for Walk & Talk in the Hills, something Gillian finds cathartic for herself.

She said her drive to help others with spinal injuries was part of the reason she applied for the PhD and wanted to build a better understanding and knowledge for people living with major back issues.

Gillian said: “I have had a strong desire to support others who also have sustained a walking spinal injury. I have read a lot of research to better understand and support others, yet I felt there was a gap in knowledge regarding the Walking Spinal Community (WSC), to which my doctorate research focuses on.

“I studied whilst working and stepped away from my corporate role late 2022 so that I could give greater focus to complete my PhD, whilst also spend more time with family and enjoy Usana Mindset coaching.”

When Gillian walks across The Music Hall stage, her parents will be looking on from the audience and it was shared this will be a very special day for her family.

With her PhD now over, Gillian will build on her qualification through academic papers, giving conference presentations and writing a guide for the WSC. Her corporate career and business also continue.

In regard to her overall experience at RGU, Gillian praised the support she received during the Covid-19 pandemic from academic schools and the staff she engaged with.

Gillian said: “My supervisory team were excellent, and also it was an interesting dynamic as it brought together the Schools of Creative & Cultural Business and Health Sciences. We created a solid, supportive team that would become a strength through the challenging times, and great joy through the celebrations. There were a number of academic team members that supported at various points, however my sincere thanks in particular go to Dr Neil Connon, Dr Elliot Pirie and Dr Michael Malone.”

She adds: “Covid was a challenging time, impacting life in general for us all, but I am glad that RGU’s online access to library and papers meant I could remain in control of my studies and push forward.

“My doctorate has laid a strong foundation to help bring fundamental positive change to the lives of those impacted by a walking spinal condition. I will work with key parties and collaborative partners to bring greater information and support to this group.”

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