A mature student is using his Hollywood and UK Film expertise to improve public health communications.
Mark Grindle has completed a PhD from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, his third degree from the University of Stirling over 30 years.
English-born Mark previously graduated with degrees in Film and Media and Film Production - punctuated by stints working in Hollywood and the UK Film, television and computer games industry – before returning to his favourite alma-mater.
Mark, who lives in Dunblane, said: “I’m delighted to be graduating from the University of Stirling for the third time. When I left for the first time, I never expected that I would be back to graduate for a second time, far less a third, but the University has been so flexible in creating opportunities for me to develop, whether it was through scholarships or giving me the chance to spend time abroad during my degrees.”
After a career working as a screenwriter, script editor, producer and executive producer on programmes such as The Bill, Doctor Finlay and High Road, Mark’s latest degree, coupled with his role as a Scriptwriter and Research Fellow at the University, has seen him use his media industry skills to improve the nation’s health.
He has investigated how using interactive digital storytelling - in which users create, direct or influence a film’s storyline in real-time - can improve communications on public health issues such as smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.
Mark said: “I’d lost a parent to cancer so there was a personal element to it, but I also felt that public health information films seemed to be quite patronising. I was exploring interactive storytelling and I thought there were great opportunities to use it the context of health improvement.
“I had a hunch that it could work, but it was the support and flexibility from the University which gave me the opportunity to find out for sure through my research.”
Working with the University’s award-winning Institute for Social Marketing and the Nursing Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, Mark’s PhD investigated the potential of interactive storytelling to influence health behaviours.
Mark’s approach of using commercial storytelling strategies - such as those used in TV soaps - has now been used to design a text-based intervention to promote smoking cessation in pregnant young women, as well as interventions to reduce alcohol consumption and obesity in men. He has also recently written and directed a short film designed to help parents of children with Cystic Fibrosis adhere to physiotherapy.
Mark began studies at Stirling in 1985, graduating with a First Class degree in Film and Media Studies. During his first degree, he spent a year at the University of California in San Diego before taking on a film editor role with BBC’s Pebble Mill after graduating.
In 1990, he became first recipient of Stirling’s David Jacobs Scholarship, which enabled students to study and research in Hollywood before returning to benefit the Scottish Film and Television industry.
Mark attended UCLA’S Graduate Screenwriting Programme, worked with Columbia Pictures and on shows such as Northern Exposure. He then came back to Stirling in 1994 to complete his Master’s degree on ‘The Hollywood Storytelling Process’.
Mark said: “It feels absolutely fantastic to complete the PhD - I could have spent the rest of my life doing it, so it’s great to have deadlines – and I’m really enjoying coming back to the campus for another graduation, thirty years after I first arrived.”
Mark received his award along with graduates from the Schools of Applied Social Science, Health Sciences and Natural Sciences. Honorary graduates Sally Magnusson and former University Secretary Kevin Clarke also received their awards at the same ceremony.