Thursday, 20 November 2014

In the spotlight: Dr Carol Hodgson

Last month we sat down with Dr Carol Hodgson to talk about her role as a clinician and as a researcher. Have a read about her experience in both fields and why she made the move into research. 

Dr Carol Hodgson has had a longstanding career researching medical intervention in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Her status as Senior Physiotherapist in intensive care at The Alfred Hospital comes after over twenty years of clinical experience and a PhD investigating ventilation in ICU at Monash University. She says it was a seamless transition that led to her research position today. 

“For me it made perfect sense to become a researcher and I don’t know that you could be a good researcher unless you had all that clinical experience behind you because you wouldn’t know what questions to ask”.

Dr Hodgson says her initial research stemmed from unanswered questions she had based on her own clinical practice, and a desire to improve patient services.

“You look at what you’re doing [clinically] and you really want to evaluate the best options that you have available and sometimes that means that you have an idea that something might be better if it’s done differently and you want to test it”.

“For a year and a half I gave up my clinical work, to really knuckle down and get on with my research and my writing, but to be honest it made me feel like not doing the clinical work detracted from my ability to conduct my research in a really relevant meaningful way, so I’ve gone back to my clinical work because I think that it’s important that you’re with the patients to really clarify in your mind what the important questions are”.

She says good research looks at asking important questions and comparing current practices to future changes. Her work looks at the recovery of patients who have been critically ill, including the effects of mechanical ventilation, mobilisation, and psychological long-term recovery.

In 2011, Dr Hodgson joined The Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre (ANZIC-RC) team as Senior Research Fellow.

Her achievements in her field are extensive. She is Chair of the TEAM program of research (Early Mobilisation in ICU) and Co-Chair of the PHARLAP trial, which involves a trial across Australia and New Zealand in comparing standard protective lung ventilation with new ventilation technology in patients with ARDS.

Along with this, she is on the American Thoracic Society Critical Care committee to develop best practice guidelines for mechanical ventilation in ICU, has completed 21 academic publications and supervises a diverse breadth of students.

Working with the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine she says has given her the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people.

“The School has allowed me to step outside the physiotherapy box a bit, so while I’m still very proud to be a physio, and I work clinically as a physio, it’s given me a broader scope to my abilities to conduct research in intensive care,”

“The team that I work with are really inspirational and highly experienced”.

While research is critical, it is often not viewed as a first choice for students of the discipline.

“I think that it’s easy to make research appealing, but I think it’s hard to find time to fit research in around full time clinical work. And I think what’s hard is that full time research often comes with a pay cut,” says Dr Hodgson.

“That’s the tricky part”.

Demand for physiotherapy places at universities across Australia also brings to the forefront the question of what young people expect from their degree.

“The ‘sexy’ part of physio is definitely in sports medicine, and that’s where a lot of people who enrol themselves in physiotherapy see themselves going in the future”.

But Dr Hodgson implores students to see the breadth of opportunities that stem from a career in physiotherapy.

“I think the really attractive component to critical care medicine in particular is that you’re working with such an amazing multi-disciplinary team and that the patients are really unwell, so the difference that you can make at that level is massive,” she says.

She encourages those interested in pursuing the research path to find what they’re passionate about and use it to ask the important questions.

She hopes her own research can go further still in the future.

“I would really like to start an intensive care registry or something that follows up how patients recover in the longer term so that we can really evaluate very carefully what we’re doing,”

“My goal is to find more interesting early interventions and to test how the patients who survive recover”.

Written by Phillipa Rust 

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