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PhD Scholar at The University of Queensland

Applicants are invited to apply for a PhD scholarship in public health at The University of Queensland. This position is available for 3 years. This position is closed on November 30, 2018.

The Faculty of Medicine is a leading provider of medical education and medical research in Queensland, with the country’s largest medical program. The four-year graduate entry medical program offers an integrated, case-based curriculum including early clinical experiences. The School is a diverse enterprise operating over multiple sites, with Queensland Health and private health service providers as major partners. Geographically, the School extends throughout Queensland with major sites in Brisbane, the outer metropolitan areas, and a number of rural and remote area facilities throughout the rest of the state. The UQ medical degree is also delivered overseas in Brunei and the United States of America, emphasising the global nature of the School.

Mater Research Institute-UQ (MRI-UQ) is a world class institute committed to academic research and its translation into clinical care for the benefit of all. MRI-UQ is an alliance between Mater Research and UQ, providing considerable strategic and operational benefits to both parties. Mater Research brings to the alliance considerable clinical collaboration opportunites and UQ brings all its expertise as a research, education and teaching. Mater Research Institute has more than 300 research staff, post graduate students and clinical researchers. There are currently 70 students undertaking a PhD or Honours program. The project supervisors are Prof Vicki Flenady, known widely as a perinatal epidemiologist and Prof David Ellwood a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist. The Mater Mothers' Hospital in Brisbane is the largest maternity hospital in Australia with over 10,000 births each year.

The Stillbirth CRE is a national program funded by the NHMRC, and is a collaborative to bring leading experts together across Australia (http://www.stillbirthcre.org.au/). The overarching purpose of the Stillbirth CRE is to generate new knowledge that will lead to a reduction in the stillbirth rate and improve quality of care after stillbirth. With 6 stillbirths occurring in Australia every day (and over 7000 worldwide) and with major long-lasting psychosocial and financial burden to families this is an urgent issue. Many of these deaths are potentially preventable with improved clinical care. The Stillbirth CRE is working closely with researchers, maternity care providers, parents and the community across a priority driven research program which has a major focus on understanding factors contributing to stillbirth, implementing high quality research into clinical practice and community awareness. The group works internationally through the International Stillbirth Alliance. The Director of the Stillbirth CRE is Professor Vicki Flenady, and the coordinating centre is located in Brisbane.

An exciting opportunity exists for a student interested in pursuing a PhD around reducing adverse pregnancy outcome, with a focus on stillbirth. Stillbirth is a devastating pregnancy outcome with approximately 2,200 babies stillborn each year in Australia. The majority of stillbirths occur in normally formed infants in late gestation. In 20-30% of stillbirths the death was avoidable had these care factors been addressed. This project aims to implement a bundle of care addressing priority evidence practice gaps to reduce the risk of stillbirth. The priority areas included in this 'Safe Baby Bundle' (SBB) are: 1) improved detection and management of impaired fetal growth; 2) increasing awareness and management of women with decreased fetal movements; 3) smoking cessation support; 4) provision of maternal safe sleeping advice; and 5) improved decision-making around timing of birth for women with risk factors. The implementation and evaluation of the SBB will be undertaken in partnership with health departments of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland and key stillbirth advocacy organisations, the Stillbirth Foundation Australia and Still Aware. This project will reach public maternity hospitals with a total of 175,200 births annually (accounting for >50% births in Australia) and we hypothesise at least a 20% reduction in stillbirths after 28 weeks' gestation; saving the lives of over 100 babies each year and their families the despair of loss. A time series analysis will examine the change in stillbirth rates comparing 15-years pre-implementation (2.6 million births) with the rate in 525,600 births in the three-year post-implementation period, using routinely collected data.

This specific project is aligned with the fifth element of the SBB and will explore novel strategies to help translate best-evidence into practice for timing of birth for women with risk factors at term. Research shows that women want to engage in their care and that women's engagement is associated with better outcomes for mothers and babies. Shared decision-making is "an approach where clinicians and patients share the best available evidence when faced with the task of making decisions, and where patients are supported to consider options, to achieve informed preferences. The successful candidate will carry out a research project nested within the SBB initiative. Additionally, a systematic review will be undertaken to summarise the world literature on the value of shared decision making around timing of birth for women with stillbirth risk factors at term.

A PhD opportunity is available for a student with an Honours/Masters degree in a science related field to join the Stillbirth CRE coordinating centre at MRI-UQ. The candidate will have a strong interest in maternity or perinatal care and good knowledge of clinical research studies. Applicants with an interest in behavioural change theory and implementation science are encouraged. Additionally, this project is ideally suited to obstetric trainees interested in undertaking a PhD. The successful candidate will be enrolled in a higher degree by research (PhD) at University of Queensland and carry out a research project focusing on stillbirth prevention in Australia through implementing a bundle of care across maternity services.

Applicants must comply with the relevant entry requirements:

a) Applicants should possess a Bachelor (H1 or H2A) with honours or a Masters Degree majoring in a science related field and be eligible for a competitive living allowance scholarship (e.g. RPT) to support full-time study.

b) Applicants must have a background in public health or obstetrics or midwifery.

c) Applicants must have the ability to develop skills in general research, methodology and statistics.

d) Applicants must be able to enrol full-time in the PhD program.

e) Applicants will have excellent writing abilities, and work effectively within a multidisciplinary and international research team

The University of Queensland values diversity and inclusion and actively encourages applications from those who bring diversity to the University. Please refer to the University's Diversity and Inclusion webpage (https://staff.uq.edu.au/information-and-services/human-resources/diversity) for further information and points of contact if you require additional support.

Accessibility requirements and/or adjustments can be directed to med.hr@uq.edu.au.

A place in this group is contingent upon the applicant successfully attaining an external scholarship (the RTP, or equivalent, valued at $27, 596 per annum (2019) for 3 years, with a possible six-month extension). RTP recipients are eligible to apply for generous top-up scholarship schemes within the Mater Research Institute Stillbirth CRE worth an additional $9,000 per annum. Scholarships are tax exempt for Australian citizens and residents. University fees may apply to overseas candidates.

To discuss this role please contact Dr Sarah Henry by email at sarah.henry@mater.uq.edu.au.

Visit our UQ Graduate School website for full terms and conditions at http://www.uq.edu.au/grad-school

To submit an application for this role, please email stillbirthcre@mater.uq.edu.au. All applicants must supply the following documents: Cover letter (explaining your interest in and suitability to undertake research in this area) and Resume.


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