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University of Exeter Medical School

Dr Jessica Bollen

Dr Jessica Bollen

Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Lecturer



 South Cloisters 


South Cloisters, University of Exeter, St Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK


Jessica Bollen is a mixed methods Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Exeter. Jessica has a research interest in improving health outcomes and quality of life for people with chronic conditions such as stroke, cancer, heart failure and physical frailty. Prior to this she was a a Trial Manager in the University of Exeter Clinical Truals Unity (ExeCTU) and an Associate Research Fellow in the Primary Care Group working on the REtirement in ACTion (REACT) project. REACT was a multi-centre randomised control trial (Bath/ Bristol, Birmingham and Devon) to evaluate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of a group, community based physical exercise programme for people who are beginning to show signs of mobility related disability. 

With an undergraduate degree in Human Biology and Sport and Exercise Science, Jessica has a keen interest in the human body, how it functions and the changes that can be brought about by exercise, aging, diseases and disabilities. Through working in gyms specialising in rehabilitation, an area of particular interest, Jessica was intrigued by individual’s attitudes to rehabilitation programs and their outcome expectations. This lead her to apply for the PhD she competed in February 2017. The end result was to create a valid and reliable questionnaire for stroke survivors to determine which individuals may be having particular problems conducting their rehabilitation programs and therefore, possibly not obtaining the outcome in terms of recovery they may like to achieve. More recently she has become interested in physical frailty and how this can be assessed in a clinical setting.


  • PhD in Medical Studies (2017) with the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry
  • CYQ gym instructor level 2 (2013)
  • BSc Joint Honours, Human Biology and Sport and Exercise Science (2011)


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Research interests

 Broad Research Specialisms

  • Psychometrics
  • Questionnaire development
  • Adherence
  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical activity & health
  • Frailty

Research Positions

For her PhD Jessica researched adherence to exercise based rehabilitation programmes in individuals who have had a stroke. The eventual outcome is that a questionnaire will be created which is psychometrically sound.

A mixed method approach has been used in developing this questionnaire; interviews and focus groups were conducted with stroke survivors, exercise professionals and, physiotherapists resulting in items for the questionnaire. The subsequent data from the completed questionnaires will undergo Rasch analysis in addition to other statistical tests to assess the validity and reliability of the measure.

In her 2014-2015 Associate Research Fellow role in the Mental Health Group Jessica researched inflammation responses and the effect they may have on cognition and information processing. In addition to this she is also supporting Leanne Trick a PhD student, aiding with recruitment and administration on a project looking at the role of worry and rumination in predicting depression in people with coronary heart disease.

Following this she was an Associate Research Fellow on the REtirement in ACTion (REACT) study which is a multi-centre randomised control trial. This study was looking at the efficacy and cost effectiveness of a community group based exercise programme for people over the age of 65 who may be beginning to experience mobility related disability. During this role she developed a keen interest in frailty, how to assess it, and ways to establish if a patient is frail/ becoming frail, and how this could be feasibly measured in a clinical setting. Following this Jessica became a Trial Manager in the Clinical Trials Unit at Exeter, working on a variety of trials.

Currently Jessica is working as a Postdoctoral Reserch Fellow for Prof Richard Neal where she is undertaining a systematic review evaluating used and novel techniques to detect upper Gastrointestinal cancers in Primary Care, and for Prof Julia Frost where she is working on the process evaluation for REACH-HFpEF trial. The trial is assessing the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of home-based cardiac rehabilitation programme ‘REACH-HF’ plus usual care (intervention) versus usual care alone (control) in heart failure patients with preserved ejection fraction and their caregivers.

Research projects

  • Primary Care- the CanDetect study
  • Third Gap- REACH-HFpEF (process evaluation)
  • Clinical Trials Unit- COVID-NURSE: evaluation of the effects of a COVID-specific fundamental nursing care protocol compared to care as usual on experience of care for non-invasively ventilated patients in hospital with the SARS-CoV-2 virus: a randomised controlled trial (COVID-NURSE)
  • Clinical Trials Unit- Management of Infected Knee Replacements-Obtaining Best Evidence (MIKROBE)
  • Clinical Trials Unit-Self-management and HeAlth Promotion in early-stage dementia with E-learning for carers (SHAPE)
  • Primary Care Group- The REtirement in ACTion (REACT) study
  • Mental Health Group- The role of perseverative negative thinking in predicting depression in people with coronary heart disease: A prospective cohort study. 
  • PhD with the PAtH Group- Developing a Stroke Rehabilitation Exercise Adherence Measure (StREAM). A self-report tool assessing the likelihood of adherence. 


  • Researcher Lead Initiative funding £1,679.50
  • University of Exeter Annual Fund grant (£15,000 over a three year period)
  • PhD Studentship

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Journal articles

Snowsill T, Stathi A, Green C, Withall J, Greaves CJ, Thompson JL, Taylor G, Gray S, Johansen-Berg H, Bilzon JLJ, et al (In Press). Cost-effectiveness of a community-based physical activity and behaviour maintenance intervention for preventing decline in physical functioning in older people: an economic evaluation of the REACT (Retirement in Action) intervention. The Lancet Public Health
Stathi A, Greaves C, Thompson JL, Withall J, Ladlow P, Taylor G, Medina-Lara A, Snowsill T, Gray S, Green C, et al (In Press). Effect of a physical activity and behaviour maintenance programme on functional mobility decline in older adults: the REACT (REtirement in ACTion) randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Public Health
Withall J, Greaves CJ, Thompson JL, de Koning JL, Bollen JC, Moorlock SJ, Fox KR, Western MJ, Snowsill T, Medina-Lara A, et al (In Press). The tribulations of trials: Lessons learnt recruiting 777 older adults into REtirement in ACTion (REACT), a trial of a community, group-based active ageing intervention targeting mobility disability. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences
Goldsmith G, Bollen JC, Salmon VE, Freeman JA, Dean SG (2023). Adherence to physical rehabilitation delivered via tele-rehabilitation for people with multiple sclerosis: a scoping review protocol. BMJ Open, 13(3), e062548-e062548. Abstract.
Ladlow P, Western MJ, Greaves CJ, Thompson JL, Withall J, de Koning J, Bollen JC, Moorlock SJ, Guralnik JM, Fox KR, et al (2023). The REtirement in ACTion exercise programme and its effects on elements of long term functionality in older adults. Frontiers in Public Health, 11
Stathi A, Withall J, Greaves CJ, Thompson JL, Taylor G, Medina-Lara A, Green C, Snowsill T, Johansen-Berg H, Bilzon J, et al (2022). A group-based exercise and behavioural maintenance intervention for adults over 65 years with mobility limitations: the REACT RCT. Public Health Research, 10(14), 1-172. Abstract.
Snowsill TM, Stathi A, Green C, Withall J, Greaves CJ, Thompson JL, Taylor G, Gray S, Johansen-Berg H, Bilzon JLJ, et al (2022). Cost-effectiveness of a physical activity and behaviour maintenance programme on functional mobility decline in older adults: an economic evaluation of the REACT (Retirement in Action) trial. Lancet Public Health, 7(4), e327-e334. Abstract.  Author URL.
Richards DA, Sugg HVR, Cockcroft E, Cooper J, Cruickshank S, Doris F, Hulme C, Logan P, Iles-Smith H, Melendez-Torres GJ, et al (2021). COVID-NURSE: evaluation of a fundamental nursing care protocol compared with care as usual on experience of care for noninvasively ventilated patients in hospital with the SARS-CoV-2 virus—protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open, 11(5), e046436-e046436. Abstract.
Gaboury I, Tousignant M, Corriveau H, Menear M, Le Dorze G, Rochefort C, Vachon B, Rochette A, Gosselin S, Michaud F, et al (2021). Effects of Telerehabilitation on Patient Adherence to a Rehabilitation Plan: Protocol for a Mixed Methods Trial. JMIR Res Protoc, 10(10). Abstract.  Author URL.
Testad I, Clare L, Anstey K, Selbæk G, Bjørkløf GH, Henderson C, Dalen I, Gjestsen MT, Rhodes S, Røsvik J, et al (2020). Self-management and HeAlth Promotion in Early-stage dementia with e-learning for carers (SHAPE): study protocol for a multi-centre randomised controlled trial. BMC Public Health, 20(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Stathi A, Withall J, Greaves CJ, Thompson JL, Taylor G, Medina-Lara A, Green C, Bilzon J, Gray S, Johansen-Berg H, et al (2018). A community-based physical activity intervention to prevent mobility-related disability for retired older people (REtirement in ACTion (REACT)): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials, 19(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Dickens CM, Bollen J, Trick L, Llewellyn D (2017). The effects of acute inflammation on cognitive functioning and emotional processing in humans: a systematic review of experimental studies. Journal of Psychosomatic Research
Bollen JC, Dean SG, Siegert RJ, Howe TE, Goodwin VA (2014). A systematic review of measures of self-reported adherence to unsupervised home-based rehabilitation exercise programmes, and their psychometric properties. BMJ Open, 4(6). Abstract.  Author URL.

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