The journey through a PhD is often about much more than just research. Being flexible, having patience and persistence, and the ability to work independently while managing research and clinical work were all a part of the challenge for 2015 Allied Health Scholar Teresa Brown who recently submitted her final thesis for review.

Teresa’s PhD involved a first-of-its-kind study in Australia designed to improve nutrition for head and neck cancer patients before they receive treatment. Improved nutrition pre-treatment could help patients maintains muscle, strength and energy levels, and can reduce the length of stay in the hospital.

“Despite having a clear picture of my research idea before I started, which I understand is not usually the case for many PhD candidates, I still found the first year the most challenging. The final year was challenging in a different way – I was more focused on completing the analysis and writing. I felt like I was working more independently by this point as well with less reliance on the supervisory team.”

“I learned that things don’t always go to plan or how you expect. For example I had problems with recruitment for my main research study that I hadn’t anticipated, however this ended up creating another research question in itself and another project!” Teresa said.

Through the process of research and collaboration, Teresa also learned the importance of being able to adapt writing and communication styles for different audiences. A skill she will continue developing and put to practice in the capacity of clinician with patients, as a mentor and supervisor to PhD students and in her new role as Assistant Director of Nutrition & Dietetics at Queensland Health.

“I would like to be able to be able to support and mentor future PhD students to increase research capacity and knowledge. In addition my new role involves leadership, strategic direction and advocacy in the management of Nutrition and Dietetic services as well as leadership and development of research and education”, she said.
In addition to developing leadership and mentoring skills, one of Teresa’s long-term goals is to continue developing her knowledge of translational research frameworks so that she can implement findings from clinical trials and research into everyday practice.

“I would like to leave a major mark in the nutritional management of head and neck cancer. I also hope to contribute significant research that can guide practice, particularly in the role of tube feeding in this patient population”, she said.