Learning the importance of research impact at the Doctoral Training Alliance summer school

PhD student Laura Simmons attended the Doctoral Training Alliance Biosciences for Health summer school hosted by the University of Huddersfield on the 24th-26th July. During the 3-day event students took part in a variety of workshops that focused on how individuals can make an impact with their research.

DTA summer school 3The main focus of the summer school was the Impact Challenge where students had to present a pitch to a group of judges on a particular research topic. We were encouraged to choose a goal, define the outcomes, outputs and funding requirements. This provided a great opportunity for students to consider how much funding would be required and what resources would be needed to carry out the project. We were also encouraged to consider our connections to external charities and organisations that could help us in achieving the project goals.

There were a variety of projects that were presented during the summer school including: a uterus massage to reduce haemorrhaging and maternal mortality (Laura Simmons); a diabetes mobile app to reduce mortality from non-communicable diseases and promote health (Sophie Mohamed); and implementing an online training course to empower healthcare workforces in developing countries (Ksenia Trischel).

DTA summer school 2Laura and her team were one of three groups who were awarded ‘funding’ from the judging panel (awarded in chocolate coins) for their work on developing an educational programme to reduce haemorrhaging during childbirth to reduce maternal mortality.

Overall the Impact Challenge was a useful exercise that mirrored the real life expectations of working with colleagues to produce a funding application. It challenged us to think outside the box and consider the impact that the project may have from other perspectives such as the economy.

For more information about the Doctoral Training Alliance visit their website https://unialliance.ac.uk/dta/programmes/dta-applied-biosciences-for-health

By Laura Simmons

Joseph Akanuwe receives PhD for work on communicating cancer risk

Joseph Akanuwe, doctoral student at CaHRU was recently confirmed by the College of Social Science Research Degrees Board that he be awarded his PhD for his thesis ‘Exploring service user and practitioner perspectives of using cancer risk assessment tools in primary care consultations. Cancer risk prediction tools are novel tools that combine risk factors and symptoms to predict an individual’s risk of developing cancer.

WP_20160208_16_16_01_RichThe work included a systematic scoping review followed by interviews of 19 service users and 17 primary care practitioners, the latter before and after they had used the tools in patient consultations. Participants suggested ways to best communicate cancer risk to patients in primary care consultations, emphasising the importance of: tailoring visual representation of risk; being open and honest; informing and involving patients in use of cancer risk prediction tools and providing time for listening, explaining and reassuring in the context of a professional approach.

He also found barriers to the uptake of cancer risk prediction tools including: the additional time required; worry and anxiety generated by referral for investigations; potential for over-referral; practitioner scepticism about using the new tool; and the need for evidence of effectiveness before introducing cancer risk prediction tools in general practice consultations. These barriers were perceived before the use of the tools. The findings add to the knowledge and understanding of how best to communicate cancer risk information to patients when using cancer risk prediction tools. Joseph was supervised by Profs Niro Siriwardena and Sara Owen, together with Dr Sharon Black.

By Prof Niro Siriwardena

Viet-Hai Phung attends KCL social science research summer school

Viet-Hai Phung, research assistant and doctoral student at CaHRU recently attended the summer school, ‘Doing social science research in healthcare settings’ at King’s College, London, 13-14 July 2017. This is his account of the course.

vhp2“It was a pleasure to attend this two-day summer school that was run by King’s College, London aimed at Early Career Researchers and PhD students. The five sessions spread over two days covered a range of topics of particular interest and relevance to me. First up, we looked at using theory in applied health research. This started off with the basics of comparing positivism, with its emphasis on objective reality, and interpretivism’s accommodation of multiple realities. The session continued by linking micro, meso and macro-theory. A key focus was Bourdieu’s logic of practice which explores how context and structures affect decisions.

The afternoon session examined how reflexivity can be used at different stages of the research process. Reflexivity also has its place within positivism and interpretivism. There then followed a discussion of the merits of ethics committees. Do they ensure that research is conducted to the highest standards or are they too risk averse? The session concluded by examining the role of the researcher in data collection.

sunflowerThe final day’s morning session continued to discuss the role of ethics committees. It discussed the way research governance has evolved within the healthcare sector and universities. In particular, we discussed the research governance process, particularly, the role of the Health Research Authority. The way they operated was compared (unfavourably) with university ethics committees, which from personal experience, I would agree with. The second morning session discussed the types of social science research that is likely to attract funding. Researchers are encouraged to publish to benefit their institutions in the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Increasingly, PhD students are encouraged to publish papers from their thesis. Deductive projects are particularly attractive to funders because they start with a clear research question, while the initial lack of clarity inherent in inductive research is less persuasive to potential funders.

The final session of the summer school examined the process from an initial idea to it becoming implemented. Apparently, this process normally takes around 17 years, with many pitfalls that can potentially slow the process down.

As a healthcare researcher and a PhD student, I found the summer school to be highly useful and relevant. The sessions were delivered clearly, in an engaging manner and with great enthusiasm. I would definitely recommend it to others in similar career situations.”

By Viet-Hai Phung



Julie Pattinson successfully defends PhD thesis on gambling behaviour in British older adults

Julie Pattinson who recently joined CaHRU as a research assistant, recently successfully defended her doctoral thesis evaluating psychological and physical health as predictors for problem gambling in British older adults.

The aim of the doctorate was to build knowledge and understanding of British older adult gambling behaviour to PHOTO - Copyunderstand psychological and age-related physical health differences as predictive risk factors for problem gambling. The study used a mixed methods approach. A qualitative study using grounded theory suggested that British older adults gambled to alleviate distress experienced from psychological, lifestyle and physical changes associated with ageing. A cross-sectional survey investigating risk factors for problem gambling behaviour found the strongest predictor was use of slot machines. The third study used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis found that British older adult women gambled to fill voids, for emotional escape, and in doing so risked overspending.

Overall the thesis provided a detailed analysis of how psychological and physical health factors affect British older adult gambling behaviour. This will inform future research on gambling behaviour, with a long-term goal of informing development of gambling interventions for this population.

By Julie Pattinson

Michael Toze joins CaHRU

CaHRU Website

CaHRU WebsiteMichael Toze has recently joined CaHRU on a doctoral studentship funded by the Lincoln University Research Investment Fund. He gained a BA (Hons) History from the University of Durham and a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies from Kingston University.

mtozePrior to joining CaHRU, he worked for eight years in a variety of roles within local government, including committee management, policy development and performance measurement. He also volunteered with, and at times managed, small voluntary and community organisations working with the LGBT+ community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and other minority gender identities and sexual orientations). This developed his interest in how individuals within the LGBT+ community interact with social networks, community organisations and statutory services.

Michael will be taking this further in his PhD, supervised by Drs Zowie Davy and Karen Windle, which is looking at health and social care issues affecting older LGBT+ people in rural and urban communities.