Thursday, 27 October 2016

Get to know PhD candidate Briony Murphy

Briony Murphy is a PhD candidate in SPHPM's Department of Forensic Medicine who is undertaking unique research in the field of intentional deaths in Australia's nursing home population. Her dynamic research is an important facet of public health that is highly relevant in light of Australia's ageing population. 

Summarise your thesis in two or three sentences. 
My PhD research aims to describe the frequency and nature of intentional deaths (including suicide and physical assaults between residents) among nursing home residents in Australia, using existing medico-legal data generated for coroners investigations (2000-2013). The results of this research will be used to inform prevention policy to improve quality and life and quality of care for nursing home residents.

 What were you doing before you started your PhD and where?
I completed my undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice Administration with RMIT in 2012. As part of the program I participated in a three month work placement with the Coroners Court of Victoria, working in the Coroners Prevention Unit. This is where I became familiar with the coroners process for death investigation in Australia and the opportunities for injury prevention research. I then conducted an honours research project looking at service contacts proximate to intimate partner homicides in Victoria and graduated with first class honours in 2013.

This ignited my interest in research and for the next year I worked as a research assistant in the Department of Forensic Medicine on a project examining external cause deaths among nursing home residents in Victoria. In this single-state sample we were surprised to find a small number of intentional deaths from suicide and resident-to-resident aggression, and were interested to find out if other similar research had been conducted on this subgroup of deaths, and what we would find if we conducted a national study. Hence my PhD project was born.

What's been the greatest challenge while undertaking your PhD and how did you overcome it?
The greatest challenges for me so far have been coming to terms with the nature of the academic research world. I am extremely privileged to have such a supportive and knowledgeable supervisory team, who have helped me navigate my way thus far and are encouraging me to reach my career goals in the future. In addition to this, my best lines of defence are organisation and planning. When things start to get overwhelming, I take a step back look at everything I need to do, break it down into smaller more manageable tasks, and prioritise them, then get to work ticking them off one by one. By the end of the day/week you’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish.

I have two motivational quotes pinned to my wall above my desk that have gotten me through many tough times – “It always seems impossible until its done” and “We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work remains the same”. Bottom line: get on with it!

How far into your PhD are you?
I am now in the third year of my PhD and am currently writing up the results of my research, with the aim to submit by early 2017.

Do you have any idea of what you'd like to do after finishing your PhD?
I would like to continue to pursue a career in injury prevention research. I am passionate about maximising the use of existing medico-legal databases to improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations, and am interested in continuing to work in the growing field of ageing and aged care. Ideally, I would like to obtain a post-doctoral position at an international research institute and work overseas for a few years, so I am planning to apply for the NHMRC Early Career Fellowship Sidney Sax Overseas Public Health Fellowship next year.

What do you like doing outside of your office hours? 
Netflix, movies, and crime novels;
Spending time with my family; and
Planning my wedding with my fiancé.

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