Flinders University graduate Dr Gemma Sharp has won an Early Career Researcher Award from the Mental Health Service (TheMHS) Learning Network at their national conference in Sydney.
The Award recognised Dr Sharp’s research into the increasingly popular cosmetic procedure of labiaplasty, which reduces the size and/or shape of the labia minora so that it does not protrude beyond the labia majora.
Dr Sharp has investigated the social and cultural factors that influence women’s attitudes toward their genital appearance, and also the outcomes for women who undergo genital altering surgery.
By examining a number of studies involving labiaplasty patients and surveying attitudes from the general female population in Australia, Dr Sharp has found that the way women’s genitals are usually shown in mainstream media, with a ‘smooth curve’ with no protrusion of the labia minora, is a strong influence on women’s consideration of labiaplasty.
Dr Sharp has also shown that while women who undergo labiaplasty are often very satisfied with the change in their genital appearance, this does not necessarily lead to improvements in their psychological or sexual wellbeing.
Dr Sharp was presented with her Award by the Federal Minister for Health and Sport, Greg Hunt.
The Mental Health Service Awards of Australia and New Zealand are presented every year by TheMHS Learning Network to recognise and encourage best practice, research excellence and innovation in mental health service delivery.
Dr Sharp will be continuing her research in 2018 through the development and evaluation of an online psycho-educational intervention for women.
The intervention will seek to provide women who have concerns about their genital appearance with an alternative option to cosmetic genital surgery.