Get to know Flinders University 2022 3MT Winner Dr Siobhan Fitzpatrick


Congratulations to Dr Siobhan Fitzpatrick, from the College of Medicine and Public Health (CMPH), for winning the 2022 3-Minute Thesis final for Flinders University.

Siobhan took out the top honour for her presentation omn Repairing the gap: The impact of post-partum rectus diastasis on women’s quality of life, and she will now compete in the Asia Pacific Final as Flinders University’s representative. You can watch Siobhan’s presentation here, and refer to the Flinders University 3MT page for more information.

The eight finalists selected by the judging panels and one wildcard entrant (People’s Choice winner) progressing to the 2022 Asia-Pacific 3MT Final will be announced on Monday October 10 and will appear on the Asia-Pacific 3MT Final page.

We asked Siobhan to tell us a little bit about herself and her research journey.

Tell us about yourself . When did you know that you wanted to do a PhD? What inspired or motivated you?

I’ve been thinking about doing a PhD since I was in medical school, however, I wanted to wait until the right supervisor and topic came along. I think it’s important to be at the right stage in your life and career. It’s hard in surgery to take a three year break away from work so the timing needs to be strategic. I’ve always wanted to be an academic surgeon. To create a career for myself that balances both teaching and university roles with operating, and the PhD was the logical next step towards that goal. When I moved from Sydney to Adelaide and started working with Associate Professor Nicola Dean, I saw that she had such an excellent track record with PhD students who were also plastic surgery registrars and encouraged a bit of life along the way – it was the right fit and the timing suited, so I took the plunge.

What is the topic of your PhD and why is it important to you? How did you go about choosing your research project and your supervisor?

I am investigating the impact of post-partum rectus diastasis (or tummy muscle separation) on women’s quality of life, as well as the health-benefits of surgery to fix it (abdominoplasty). In 2016, the Medicare item number for abdominoplasty was taken away, which led to a huge community outcry. My supervisor, Associate Professor Nicola Dean, in her role with the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (of which she is now the President), has been working hard towards the reinstatement of a Medicare item number for abdominoplasty specifically for post-partum rectus diastasis. This was achieved in July of this year. My supervisor approached me in 2020 with her idea for a PhD on rectus diastasis and I was inspired by the cause. Together we have designed this PhD to form the definitive body of evidence for abdominoplasty for rectus diastasis, in the hope that it will provide recognition for women with this condition and improve access for those needing surgery in Australia.

What have you gained from taking part in the 3MT?

The 3MT has been a fantastic opportunity for me to distil the message of my PhD and to present it in a way that has the greatest reach. To communicate a complicated, multifaceted body of work into a catchy and clear message in less than three minutes has really enabled me to focus on the core purpose of my PhD. I hope the people who listen to my presentation learn something and feel inspired by what I’m trying to achieve.

What advice would you give to others thinking about taking part in the 3MT?

Go for it! It’s an excellent way for you to clarify your topic, to appreciate what you have achieved so far, and feel reinspired to keep going along this challenging journey! Plus, it’s surprisingly a lot of fun.

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