Dr Ali Dymmott – 2023 HDR Student Research Impact Prize winner

Ali Dymmott is from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences and is one of the 2 winners of the HDR Student Research Impact Prize for 2023. Ali was supervised by Flinders University Professor Chris BrebnerProfessor Stacey George and Associate Professor Narelle Campbell.

Ali’s thesis, “The Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway: A workforce strategy” investigated the impact of the allied health rural generalist pathway on workforce outcomes in rural South Australia. She also explored the experience of allied health professionals undertaking the pathway as well as their supervisors, managers and consumers receiving allied health services.

We invited Ali to share insights into the PhD journey and what winning this award means.

What does winning this award mean to you?

Receiving this award made me feel very proud of my research. I worked really hard ensure my PhD would be impactful and useful in practice and so this award is really exciting.

Tell us about your PhD journey so far

I started my PhD in September 2019 and it was conferred in November last year. I studied part time as I also work full time as a lecturer here at Flinders. I partnered with SA Health to undertake a research project that they were invested in and was relevant to my skills and experience.  As a rural generalist allied health professional myself I am passionate about improving the lives of rural and remote people. I was fortunate to receive funding from SA Health to be able to investigate the impact of the rural generalist pathway as it was introduced in rural South Australia.  The findings and recommendations from my research informed regional Local Health Network workforce planning and have lead onto two post PhD research projects that I am currently undertaking.

My systematic review investigating the experience of early career rural allied health professionals and doctors formed my background chapter and can be found here: https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-022-08261-2

The research reports we wrote for SA Health are published here https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/about+us/our+local+health+networks/regional+health+services/rural+health+workforce/allied+health+rural+generalist+pathway

And our Cost Consequence study has just been accepted for publication and can be found here https://www.rrh.org.au/journal/early_abstract/8557

We have two more papers we are hoping to publish this year. Its been great doing mixed methods as we have generated a lot of data and we can consider the findings from a range of different angles for publication.

What advice would you give to current or prospective PhD students?

Choose a project you are really passionate about and work with an industry partner if you can. Getting regular feedback and advice from them was really useful in making sure the project was meeting the needs of all stakeholders and was relevant and accessible. I had regular progress reporting requirements with SA Health which meant by the time I went to write my thesis, I had a lot of writing that I could use which was great.

Why did you choose to commence a PhD?

I really wanted to extend myself as an academic by developing research skills and knowledge.  I saw the PhD as an apprenticeship in becoming a researcher and it definitely was. It has set me up so well for a research career and I have developed lots of great networks along the way.

How did you choose your supervisor?

I got to know Chris on a work trip when she was our Dean of Education, she talked to me about what I was passionate about and where I wanted to head with my career. She encouraged me to build on my strengths, passions and networks in choosing a PhD which was the best advice I could have got. I couldn’t have asked for a better supervisor, she is such a generous, warm and supportive person and always made time for me.

I have looked up to Stacey as a role model for years, she is a leader in occupational therapy research and I knew I wanted to work with her in my PhD. She has always supported my work and encouraged me in the different roles I have had so she was a no brainer for the team. She continues to supervise me post PhD which I couldn’t be happier about.

Narelle came to the team as the rural researcher who was probably the most knowledgeable in terms of the topic area, she was so generous in sharing her wisdom and experience in rural and remote research and her research linked really well with what I was doing.

I was also supported by Rachel Milte who came along to support me with an economic analysis and I learnt so much from her about quantitative research. We are now working together on a new project which is really lovely.

What are your future goals and plans? / Where do you see your career heading in the future?

As I move out of the PhD world and into the Early Career Researcher role, I am finding my feet and looking out at the possibilities. I am undertaking a research project investigating the impact of the allied health rural generalist pathway across Australia which is exciting, and I am also helping the Yorke and Northern Local Health Network develop a research strategy for their workforce pipeline. I want to keep researching in rural and remote areas but  in the health ageing research team where I sit, I also have the opportunity to participate in a range of clinical research projects which is great.

This year in my teaching role, we have introduced three new allied health degrees in rural South Australia.  I am very excited about developing the workforce of the future through training local people to become health professionals without them needing to move away to study.  This fits well with my research as there is no simple solution to rural workforce challenges and a rural pipeline is one strategy that we know will have a positive impact. I am looking forward to continuing to explore new and exciting ways of improving the lives of rural and remote people in the future through research and teaching.

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