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CHARM 2019: Sparking research collaboration and discovery

Suzanne Lazaroo

26 July 2019: For 25 years, CHARM has brought together health researchers, students, policy makers, carers, consumers, industry and clinicians in a bid to promote, enable and inspire multi-disciplinary health research.

Executive Dean of the University of Canberra’s Faculty of Health Professor Michelle Lincoln said that CHARM is an important date in any health researcher’s calendar.

“This meeting brings researchers from various disciplines together from across the sector, sparks new collaborative research and showcases expertise from the region and beyond,” said Professor Lincoln.

Big picture: it can also help research to move beyond researchers and clinicians, translating it to find purchase in the larger community.

“Good health research is often co-designed with the people who use it – this kind of knowledge sharing invites people into the health research space, making CHARM a springboard for such partnerships,” said Professor Lincoln.

Ultimately, it also improves health literacy in the community by empowering ordinary people with knowledge and understanding of best practices, and enabling them to take greater charge of their own health outcomes.

Spanning three and a half days, the free-to-attend meeting will explore pre-clinical and clinical research, nursing, allied health and population health research, and data analytics and policy research, quality assessments and evaluations.

Professor of Epidemiology Mark Daniel, from the University’s Health Research Institute, will provide participants with insider insight into the ground-breaking Australian Geospatial Health Lab, where geospatial and health data will be combined to drive healthier lifestyles, prevent chronic disease and reduce future demand on hospitals.

Professor Karen Strickland, Head of the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Public Health, will present a systematic review of supported decision-making to help people experiencing elder abuse, while Catherine Galvin examines data predictions of the Kellgren-Lawrence Knee Osteoarthritis Severity Grade.

There will also be presentations by four of the University’s Higher Degree by Research students: Elizabeth Webb, pursuing a PhD in Physiotherapy, is investigating whether compression therapy might prevent cellulitis; PhD in Sport and Exercise Science student Rebecca Cesnik will explore physical activity levels in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy in the ACT.

PhD in Science candidate Dr Thiru Prasanna will talk about her work analysing survival outcomes in metastatic colorectal cancer; Kathryn Speer, who is pursuing a PhD in Sport and Exercise Science, will present on a photoplethysmography device used to measure heart rate variability in children.

A session focusing on end-of-life care will take a holistic and community-centric approach to the subject on the second day of the meeting.

“Exploring end-of-life care issues is really important in the context of an ageing population, and this focus is indicative of the maturity of a health system – it is based on the recognition that dying well is part of living well,” Professor Lincoln said. “Any end-of-life care approach needs to be centred around the patient, family and loved ones.”

Another highlight, the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition will see student researchers delivering short, sharp presentations on their research projects.

It’s a format that encourages engagement from students and young researchers, helping them to articulate their ideas succinctly and for a wider audience, said Associate Professor in Sport and Exercise Science Dr Richard Keegan, Chair for the 3MT presentations for the fourth year in a row.

“Scientific writing can easily become long-winded, full of jargon and only read by a narrow group,” he said. “3MT can help improve writing, engagement and – ultimately – impact, in terms of translating results into practice, or seeking funding.”

“It’s exciting to see energetic researchers working on cool and relevant new projects, sometimes leading to the will to connect and collaborate … sometimes, just leaving us feeling reassured that good work is happening!”

Associate Professor Keegan feels that encouraging engagement at the educational and early career level is particularly valuable.

“I think it is now widely recognised that most of the important and difficult problems we face span discipline boundaries, and solutions will require interdisciplinary collaborations,” he said.

“Getting early career researchers in front of practitioners and more experienced researchers who deal with those problems is important – early career researchers may actually have the ‘career time’ to grapple with these big problems and make a sustained contribution to solutions.”

Every year, Associate Professor Keegan says, there is at least one presentation topic which looks at risk of being dry, a bit niche, or even taboo.

“And then you see the speaker really bring their work to life, and deliver something compelling,” he said.

“I really enjoy these little surprises, because they speak to what is wonderful about science – that it is almost always interesting – as well as to the enormous passion and brilliance of our speakers.”

CHARM is hosted by the Centre of Health and Medical Research, ACT Health and Canberra Health Services, in collaboration with the University of Canberra, the Australian National University, UNSW Canberra, Australian Catholic University and Australian Institute of Sport.

3 Minute Thesis Competition Presenters (click on each presenter for a quick summary)

Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours)


Following cardiac surgery, up to one in four patients can develop life-threatening lung complications.

One factor that may contribute to this is breathing muscle weakness.

Evidence suggests that training the breathing muscles prior to surgery reduces the risk of developing these complications – but these interventions are not readily implemented, because the relationship between breathing muscle strength and lung complications isn’t known.

Ms d’Arx’s study will be the first to focus on this relationship, and will inform future research for preventing lung complications in cardiac surgery.

Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours)


Tendon pain is difficult to treat, and typically becomes chronic; frequent load with inadequate time to recover is thought to be the most common precipitator.

However, some people develop tendon pain in the absence of overload, and blood cholesterol levels may be implicated in this – though the nature of the relationship between high blood cholesterol levels and tendon pain is unclear.

Ms Howard’s project will use a quantitative image analysis technique to detect changes that occur in the tendon before pain begins, which could help the understanding of cholesterol’s effect and what puts some individuals at higher risk of developing pain.

Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours)


There seems to be a trend where adolescent females reduce their participation in sport – and one reason could be stress urinary incontinence.

Stress incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine occurring during exertion or effort such as physical activity; up to 80 per cent of female athletes experience this.  

There is limited research about the presentation of stress incontinence in young athletes, so we don’t know at what age it first occurs – but we do know that it can be a barrier to participation in physical activity.

Therefore, this research could help keep girls in sport.

Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours)


Greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS) is a common condition, affecting one in four women over the age of 50. It is characterised by chronic regional pain in the lateral hip, which is aggravated by walking.

People with GTPS have an altered gait biomechanics and are typically less active. However, current treatment doesn’t focus on improving walking ability. Mr Hunter and his team are investigating whether orthotics can alter the abnormal gait biomechanics, and lessen the pain experienced by people with GTPS, during the everyday task of walking.

PhD in Psychology


Imagine experiencing prejudice, discrimination, rejection and even violence for being yourself – one million lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) Australians have, simply because of their LGB identity.

Sadly, LGB people are three to four times more likely to suffer anxiety and depression, and suicide. Often, mental health services demonstrate unfavourable attitudes, and a lack of skills and knowledge when it comes to LGB people.

Mr Bishop’s work investigates the reasons behind this, and seeks to improve the attitudes, skills and knowledge of mental health service providers.

Importantly, his research imagines a world where everyone has the necessary attitudes, skills and knowledge to interact with each other – a world in which love triumphs.

Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours)


This study explores the long-term outcomes of greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS).

In particular, it focuses on investigating the condition’s possible relationship to decreased bone mineral density and possible link to hip osteoarthritis.

Mr Bicket will present on the potential consequences of these conditions and the debilitating effects of GTPS on everyday life.

Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours)


Imagine feeling too weak to get out of bed in the morning – loss of strength is common in people with Parkinson’s disease, which affects approximately one per cent of people over the age of 60.

In Mr Boom’s research project, he is investigating whether a hand-held device – called a dynamometer – is a reliable measure of strength for people with this condition.

Bachelor of Physiotherapy degree (Honours)


People with Parkinson’s disease (PD) commonly experience difficulties with walking.

Historically, the primary motor impairments of PD were considered responsible for these walking difficulties; however, recent evidence suggests that people with PD additionally experience a global loss of strength, which may contribute to this difficulty walking.

Mr de Meillon’s study will investigate the correlation between strength and walking ability in people with PD; it will inform clinical decisions regarding the assessment and treatment of strength in PD.

PhD in Pharmacy


Maintaining quality use of medicines among nursing home residents is growing increasingly complex due to numerous factors, including the growing prevalence of dementia.

Including a medicines expert in aged care homes may reduce the risk of medication misadventure for residents.

This research explores the feasibility of integrating a clinical pharmacist into an established aged care health team. Its findings have shown that this is feasible, and having an on-site pharmacist yielded numerous clinical results for residents, and operational outcomes for the organisation and employees.

Ms McDerby’s work has resulted in commitments from major political parties to improve medication management in aged care.

Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours)


55,000 knee replacements were performed in Australia last year; as obesity increases, this figure is expected to surpass 100,000. But 8 per cent of these knees will fail and require a second surgery, just 15 years later.

The most common cause of this second surgery is the loosening of the implant, caused by wear and tear. This study investigates one of the factors that hasten this wear and tear – how patients move their knees, pre- and post-surgery, using three different implants.

The results of this study will help surgeons, physiotherapists and manufacturers to understand the causes of post-surgery wear and tear, and modify their approach to ensure implant longevity.