Name: Katherine Harding
Current position and who with: Senior Allied Health Research Fellow, Allied Health Clinical Research Office, Eastern Health
Undergraduate degree: Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Hons), La Trobe University
Postgraduate qualifications: Masters of Public Health (James Cook University); PhD (La Trobe University)
What is your area of research interest? Improving access, triage processes and patient flow in outpatient health settings.
How did you get started in HSR? While working with the Allied Health Clinical Research Office at Eastern Health I became interested in research questions that related to improving the way that health services operate. After awhile I realised that what I was doing was HSR. I presented one of my early studies at a HSRAANZ conference and discovered a whole community of like-minded researchers.
What was the first project you worked on and where? My first major project was during a period working with Australian Volunteers International in the Marshall Islands, a small island nation in the Pacific. This was project was completed as part of a Masters in Public Health, and involved evaluation of outcomes for patients following lower limb amputation.
What are some of the key projects you are currently working on? I am currently working on an NHMRC funded stepped wedge trial, evaluating the effectiveness of a model for access and triage known as STAT (Specific Timely Appointments for Triage) in reducing waiting time for ambulatory and community services. After an initial injection of resources to reduce existing backlogs, STAT aims to balance supply and demand and reduce the formation of lengthy waiting lists.
Career highlights so far? Being successful in a large competitive grant process for the first time has been a highlight, and also a turning point in terms of the opportunity to increase the scale of the research that I’ve been able to be a part of.
Who has had the biggest influence over your career to date? Have you had any important mentors? Professor Nick Taylor (La Trobe University) has been my most significant mentor and influence. I had the great fortune to have Nick as well as another fantastic health service researcher Professor Sandy Leggat as my PhD supervision team, and continue to enjoy ongoing collaboration.
What’s next for you in your career? What are you looking forward to? As we near the end of the data collection period on our current major project I am looking forward to learning the outcomes of the trial and translating the findings into policy and practice.
What was your motivation for becoming involved with the HSRAANZ? After attending my first HSRAANZ conference I suddenly felt like my research interests had a home. I realised my research interest wasn’t about a particular allied health discipline or diagnostic group; it was about making health services more efficient and more effective. I think it was this feeling of belonging, and recognising the wealth of experience of researchers within the association who come from diverse areas but share a common purpose, that motivated me to get more involved.
What do you think is the best way of having an influence on policy and practice? Involving clinicians at the coal face of clinical care in the development of research questions and implementation of projects is one way of making sure that research is clinically relevant and answering the questions that people need answered in order to improve care. Close collaboration between researchers and clinicians, and embedding researchers within clinical services is one useful way to achieve this, and a great strength of the research office in which I work.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the HSR? Find some great people to work with and projects that you feel excited about. Build plans for research translation into your projects to ensure that your hard work makes a difference.
What do you get up to when you are not conducting research? Running three kids around to extra curricular activities takes up a fair whack of time, but I also enjoy getting away for some outdoor recreation (walking, cross country skiing), playing hockey for the KBH Brumbies and live theatre when I get the chance.