Prof Carl May

Professor in Medical Sociology

United Kingdom

I am a medical sociologist and implementation scientist with a wide range of research interests across the sociology of health technologies and of human relations In the healthcare systems of both high and low/middle income countries. This work has ranged from very applied evaluation studies in health services research (especially in qualitative studies nested within randomized controlled trials) through studies of the social construction of professional-patient relations and different disease entities, to fundamental social science research on the dynamics of human agency under conditions of constraint.

An important part of my work over the past two decades has been the development of middle-range theoretical models that identify , characterize and explain the mechanisms that motivate and shape implementation processes (Normalization Process Theory). Building on this, I have developed theoretical models of the ways that socio-technical transformations and policy restructuring in healthcare systems affect patients and caregivers (Burden of Treatment Theory). I have collaborated widely with colleagues in the UK, U, and internationally to develop this work. .

Supervision of MSc/MPhil, PhD/MD and Post-Doctoral Fellows is a central part of my role and one which I enjoy enormously. I have supervised 29 doctoral students to successful completion. Seven of these are now full professors. I welcome enquiries about PhD/MD supervision and about mentoring competitive Post-Doctoral Fellowships.

I am a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in the UK, and a former ESRC Research Fellow and NIHR Senior Investigator.


Department of Health Services Research and Policy
Faculty of Public Health and Policy


I research and publish across the whole range of topics in medical sociology and implementation science. I have a particular interest in understanding the dynamics of human relations and socio-technical transformations in healthcare systems. My work focuses on two key applied research questions.

(a) How do professionals and patients interact, and how are these interactions shaped by clinical knowledge, technique and technology in practice?

(b) How are new knowledge, techniques and technologies made workable and implemented in health care organizations?

Underpinning these questions are more fundamental problems about (a) the dynamics of human agency under conditions of constraint, and (b) the social mechanisms implicated in the translation of strategic intentions into everyday practices. These questions inform my own research practice, which involve empirical work using qualitative methods (discourse and content analysis, and ethnographic techniques) and mixed methods studies that link qualitative work to the development of structured research instruments. I regard explanation as a centrally important part of the sociologist's craft, and my empirical research has been closely linked to the development of rigorous theoretical models that are amenable to both qualitative and quantitative investigation.

Research Area
Behaviour change
Complex interventions
Health services
Health services research
Organisational research
Science policy
Social and structural determinants of health
Policy analysis
Social Policy
Implementation science
Qualitative research
Mixed methods research
Disease and Health Conditions
Non-communicable diseases
East Asia & Pacific (all income levels)
Euro area
European Union
North America
Sub-Saharan Africa (all income levels)

Selected Publications

The Potential Added Value of Novel Hearing Therapeutics: An Early Health Economic Model for Hearing Loss.
Mandavia, R; Horstink, YM; Grutters, JP C; Landry, E; MAY, C; Rovers, M; Schilder, AG M; Scholte, M;
Otology & neurotology : official publication of the American Otological Society, American Neurotology Society [and] European Academy of Otology and Neurotology
Managing patient preferences and clinical responses in acute pathophysiological deterioration: What do clinicians think treatment escalation plans do?
MAY, C; Myall, M; Lund, S; Campling, N; Bogle, S; Dace, S; Richardson, A;
Using theory of change to plan for the implementation of a psychological intervention addressing alcohol use disorder and psychological distress in Uganda.
VAN DER BOOR, C; Andersen, LS; Massazza, A; Tol, WA; Taban, D; ROBERTS, B; Ssebunnya, J; Kinyanda, E; MAY, C; NADKARNI, A; Fuhr, D;
Cambridge Prisms: Global Mental Health
Ubuntu as a mediator in coping with multimorbidity treatment burden in a disadvantaged rural and urban setting in South Africa.
Mbokazi, N; Van Pinxteren, M; Murphy, K; Mair, FS; MAY, CR; Levitt, NS;
Social science & medicine (1982)
Maintaining long-term physical activity after cancer: a conceptual framework to inform intervention development.
Grimmett, C; Corbett, T; Bradbury, K; Morton, K; MAY, CR; Pinto, BM; Foster, C;
Journal of cancer survivorship : research and practice
Towards an Implementation-STakeholder Engagement Model (I-STEM) for improving health and social care services.
Potthoff, S; Finch, T; Bührmann, L; Etzelmüller, A; Van Genugten, CR; Girling, M; MAY, CR; Perkins, N; Vis, C; Rapley, T; ImpleMentAll consortium,;
Health expectations
Using qualitative study designs to understand treatment burden and capacity for self-care among patients with HIV/NCD multimorbidity in South Africa: A methods paper
Van Pinxteren, M; Mbokazi, N; Murphy, K; Mair, FS; MAY, C; Levitt, NS;
Journal of multimorbidity and comorbidity
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