Dr Brian Willis MSc MRCP(UK) MRCGP PhD

Institute of Applied Health Research
MRC Clinician Scientist

Contact details

Primary Care Clinical Sciences
Institute of Applied Health Research
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Brian Willis is an MRC Clinician Scientist in Primary Care.

This divides his time between working in clinical practice as a GP and being a research investigator where his principal interest is in diagnostic test research.


  • PhD in Medical Statistics, University of Manchester 2011
  • MRCGP 2006
  • DRCOG 2005
  • MRCP  2004
  • MBChB, University of Birmingham 1999
  • MSc in  Biomedical Engineering, University of Dundee 1990
  • BSc(Hons) in Mathematics, University of Bristol 1989


After studying Mathematics at Bristol, Brian, with some interest in the medical sciences, read for a Masters degree in Biomedical Engineering. A short venture into the financial sector persuaded him to pursue an alternative career in medicine where he qualified as a doctor.

Following his house officer year he joined the Public Health department in Birmingham where he was the main researcher on an NHS HTA project which reviewed the field of automated cervical screening. It was during these 18 months that he developed an interest in diagnostic research. 

In 2002 he returned to the frontline of the NHS to work at the John Radcliffe in Oxford in Emergency medicine This was followed by rotations in General medicine and General Practice during which, he completed membership examinations for both the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of General Practitioners. 

In 2008 he was awarded an MRC fellowship which he took up at the University of Manchester and led to his PhD in Medical Statistics. Broadly, his thesis explored meta-analysis methods used in diagnostic research and tackled the problems of applying diagnostic research to different clinical settings.

He joined the Primary Care department in January 2012 as an NIHR Clinical Lecturer where he has extended his work into diagnostic test methodological research. Based on this research, in 2015 he received the Thomas Chalmers award for the best paper at the internationally renowned Cochrane Colloquium and in 2016 he was awarded a prestigious MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship being one of only a few GPs to have ever achieved such an award.


Willis BH (2012). Evidence that disease prevalence may affect the performance of diagnostic tests with an implicit threshold: a cross sectional study. BMJ Open; 2:e000746.

Willis BH (2011), Quigley M. The assessment of the quality of reporting of meta-analyses in diagnostic research, BMC Med Res Methodol; 11:63.

Willis BH (2011), The diagnostic value of symptoms for colorectal cancer in primary care. Br J Gen Pract; 61:440-441.

Willis BH (2011), Development and validation of a prediction rule for breast cancer. Br J Gen Pract; 61:382.

Willis BH (2011), Quigley M, Uptake of newer methodological developments and the deployment of meta-analysis in diagnostic test research: a systematic review. BMC Med Res Methodol; 11:27

Willis BH (2008) Spectrum bias—why clinicians need to be cautious when applying diagnostic test studies, Fam Pract; 25: 390-396

Willis BH, Sur SD (2007). How good are Emergency Department Senior House Officers at interpreting x-rays following radiographers’ triage?  Eur J  Emerg Med; 14:6-13.

Willis BH, Barton P, Pearmain P, Bryan S, Hyde CJ (2005). Cervical screening programmes: can automation help? Evidence from systematic reviews, an economic analysis and a simulation modelling exercise applied to the UK. Health Technol Assess; 9(13)