Susan D Shenkin (MBChB, BSc (Hons), MSc, MD, FRCP (Edin))

Reader, University of Edinburgh; Honorary Consultant, NHS Lothian


Dr Shenkin graduated from The University of Edinburgh (MBChB) in 1994, having done an intercalated BSc (1st class Hons) in Psychology. After a general medical rotation in Oxford, and a neurology SHO job in London, she returned to Edinburgh to train in Geriatric Medicine. Under the mentorship of Professor John Starr (geriatric medicine) and Professor Ian Deary (psychology) she was awarded an MRC Training Fellowship investigating lifecourse influences on cognitive ability and cerebrovascular disease in older age. During this fellowship she obtained an MSc in Epidemiology (Distinction), graduating in 2002. and was awarded her MD in 2006. Much of her training has been  undertaken flexibly (less than full time).

She has been working as a clinical academic (Senior Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Consultant) in geriatric medicine at the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian since 2011.


2013: FRCP (Edin)

2006: MD “Life course influences on cognitive ability and cerebrovascular disease”; University of Edinburgh

2002: MSc Epidemiology, Distinction; University of Edinburgh

1997: MRCP (UK)

1994: MBChB; University of Edinburgh

1992: BSc (Med. Sci.) in Psychology, 1st Class Hons; University of Edinburgh

Responsibilities & affiliations

2017- present     Associate Editor (Systematic Reviews) for Age and Ageing

2017-present      NRS Ageing Specialty Lead

2011-present        South East Scotland Geriatfic Medicine specialty training committee academic representative

2017- present       Lothian Health Board Research Committee

2017- present       Steering Committee for SCoOP (Scottish Care of Older People – National Audit)

2015-2017              NRS Ageing Specialty Group Scotland lead (for Prof Mead)

2015-2017              RGC Specialty Group Leads (deputy for Prof Mead)

2011-2015              Dementia Implementation and Monitoring Group (NHS Lothian)

2010 -2015             Dementia and Delirium Implementation Group (Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh)

Undergraduate teaching

Regular contirbutor to Year 6 Geriatric Medicine Undergraduate Teaching, particularly on dementia, delirium and depression

Examiner in final MBChB clinical and portfolio viva exams 

Postgraduate teaching

  • 2018-current: Established and run new Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis Course at Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh
  • 2018-current: Established and on organising committee for new Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis Course at Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, Edinburgh
  • 2015-current: Course organiser for RCPE course on Critical appraisal and research methods
  • November 2014: lecture to CMT doctors on delirium
  • November 2014: lecture to MSc Brain Imaging in Neuropsychology ‘Using neuroimaging to study cognitive ageing’
  • Developed online guidance on systematic review and meta-analysis as part of the CCACE Academy (, and  organised annual successful training days for postgraduate students and staff  to 2018.
  • Contributed to a course on Systematic Reviews for trainees in geriatric medicine, organised by Dr T Quinn in West of Scotland.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

  • 2018-     PhD Primary supervisor (MRC DTP Precision Medicine: Emily Ball) CT biomarkers and other predictors of post-stroke cognitive decline
  • 2018-     PhD Co-supervisor (Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre: Katherine Walesby) Geographical variation of dementia prevalence in New Zealand and Scotland using routinely collected healthcare data and the Scottish Mental Survey cohort

Past PhD students supervised

  • 2015-2018   PhD Primary supervisor (CCACE/ASDRC clinical fellowship  Jennifer Burton): New care home admission following acute hospitalisationn: a mixed methods approach
  • 2018-2018    MSc Clinical trials supervisor (Lorn McKenzie): systematic review of delirium subtypes and outcome
  • 2015-2015    MSc psychology co-supervisor (Benji Grove): systematic review of birth weight and cognition. 
  • 2014-2016    MNursRes research placement supervision (Allan McRaild)
  • 2014-2019    PhD co-supervisor (BHF Fellowship Atul Anand): Predictors of frailty and delirium in aortic stenosis
  • 2014-2018    PhD co-supervisor (CCBS Fellowship Ellen Blackhouse): Cognitive ability in youth, risk of stroke and post-stroke dementia in later life
  • 2012- 2015 PhD co-supervisor (ASDRC funded fellowship Sarah McGrory): Item response theory in the ACE-R. Completed and PhD awarded 2015.
  • 2012- 2017 PhD co-supervisor (Dunhill funded fellowship Amanda Barugh): The role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in delirium and long-term cognitive impairment after stroke. Completed and PhD awarded 2017
  • 2013-      MSc neuropsychology: collaborator and site supervisor for recruitment of clinical patients development of a software application for the assessment of inattention and delirium
  • 2012-13 MSc neuropsychology: collaborator and site supervisor for recruitment of clinical patients for study on delirium (Gemma Brown)

Research summary

  • Diagnosis and management of patients with delirium and dementia in the acute hospital
  • How delirium and dementia affect outcomes, e.g. admission to care homes
  • Data linkage using electronic health records
  • Lifecourse epidemiology of cognitive ageing and cerebrovascular disease
  • Defining normality e.g. in brain imaging
  • Systematic reviews (especially of observational studies)

Current research interests

I am interested in how the brain changes with age, both in 'normal ageing' and in disease: dementia and delrium. I have used historical records to explore how factors in early life (even before birth) affect how the brain changes with age. I am now using electronic health records to understand how common dementia and delirium are in hospital, and the outcomes for people with these conditions, e.g. what factors predict who will be discharged from hospital straight to a care home. I am also interested in defining 'what is normal' in ageing, particularly in how to decide whether a brain scan is normal for a person's age and health, as well as how physical frailty and cognitive changes relate to each other. I particularly enjoy working with a range of colleagues, and my research involves collaborations with academic nurses, geriatricians, radiologists, obstetricians, endocrinologists, data scientists, image analysts, psychologists and many more. I am keen to promote training in research methods for clinical trainees (and to support flexible training to combine research and clinical practice), and the use of systematic reviews to synthesise the current evidence and so make sure reseach is answering important questions that have not already been addressed.

Knowledge exchange

  • Dec 2016: Speaker at ‘Let’s talk about health. Losing our minds: can we stop our brains from ageing?” University of Edinburgh Medical School Public Lecture (>200 tickets,
  • April 2016: Speaker at Women of Scotland Lunch (380 attendees, fundraiser for Music in Hospitals, raised over £23,000)
  • Sep 2015: ‘Age: what’s your number?’ Presentation and panel discussion for Midlothian Science Festival (~80 attendees)
  • March 2015: ‘The Living Brain’ panel discussion for Edinburgh Science Festival

(~100 attendees, ticketed)

  • July 2013 MRC Centenary Debate for CCACE: Seconded the motion “Does the wisdom of age trump the speed of youth”, mostly attended by healthy older people (Chair Sally Magnusson, opposer Sir Tam Dalyell).

Affiliated research centres

View all 120 publications on Research Explorer