Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow/DPhil candidate
Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences
Tell us a bit about your role
I am a physiotherapist with 17 years’ clinical experience. My clinical training focused on diagnosing and treating anatomically focussed physical problems. I found this approach limiting as it only partially acknowledges the psychological or social dimensions shaping people’s health. I often felt that I was simplifying complex issues to the potential detriment of some patients.
In 2016, I joined a multidisciplinary team supporting self-management of complex pain with hospital in-patients. In this, my current role, I work with patients with diverse clinical presentations and complex physical and psychological symptoms who experience significant negative impact on their quality of life. My move into the pain management field gave me professional freedom to ‘zoom out’ beyond existing normative approaches to conceptualising pain. Working with different professionals and completing an MSc in Global Public Health and Policy in which I learned about the wider determinants of health, I began to draw on other approaches that take account of contextual issues contributing to complex pain.
My experience as a specialist physiotherapist raised a series of questions about self-management of chronic pain. For example, what is self-management and what does it mean for the patients and professionals practicing it? How relevant is the idea - or ideal - of self-management to people living with pain? I successfully applied for an HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship to examine how self-management is understood and accomplished by people living with chronic pain. I am completing my DPhil, part-time in the department of primary care health sciences as part of the fellowship. I am conducting a qualitative case study looking at policy, practice and the experience of people living with chronic pain.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
I am part of the Interdisciplinary Research in Health Sciences (IRIHS) research group and can see how working across disciplines enriches health research. I find that translating insights from social sciences and the humanities to my own work in pain allows me to explore questions in a different way. I hope that these diverse perspectives will allow me to deliver meaningful and impactful work that makes a difference to clinical practice.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
In the past year, I (like many others) have been sensitised to social injustice and how this contributes to health inequalities. I have participated in a number of podcasts discussing race and ethnicity, encouraging my peers in allied health roles to rethink our attitudes towards race, equality, diversity and inclusion. Being a part of the Athena SWAN team as a DPhil rep has exposed me to the divisions commitment to improving experiences for women in the academy. I am proud to have made a contribution to these discussions and initiatives.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
I would like to see an increased presence of non-medical clinical academics in Medical Sciences i.e., more allied health professionals leading and contributing to research and recognised as an important voice in medical sciences.