AITHM James Cook University


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06 August 2019

The Cohort Doctoral Studies Program engages practising health professionals in research degrees. The industry partners for the Cohort Doctoral Studies Program are predominantly the institutions delivering health services to Northern Australia including hospitals, private practices and public health services. The program also partners with Health Services and private practices in other states and territories including New South Wales, Victoria, Northern Territory and Tasmania. Typically, Cohort Doctoral Studies candidates begin their research candidature already employed in one of these industries. The Cohort Doctoral Studies Program is therefore reverse engineered with industry partners coming to the program to engage in research degrees rather than research candidates being placed with industry. The main aim of the program is to create an environment in which health professionals working full or part time can successfully undertake a research degree. Thus, Cohort Doctoral Studies candidates often integrate research into their work rather than undertake work-integrated learning typical of higher degree by research (HDR) industry placements.

Utilising culture as a health tool

Accredited Mental Health Social Worker and JCU Masters student, Rachel Bruce, is undertaking her Master in Philosophy (Health).

Rachel Bruce was born and raised on Thursday Island, North Queensland and her ancestral heritage is Meriam (Eastern), Mabuiag (Western) Islands in the Torres Strait.

 Rachel completed her Diploma in Indigenous Community Welfare and went on to further studies completing a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Queensland and later obtaining her credentials as an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker.   She has worked in the field for 20 years predominantly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and is passionate about supporting and advocating for Individuals and families, and holds strong stances around human rights, self-determination, equality, social justice and community empowerment. 

Rachel has been thinking of future studies for a while and in 2018 decided to undertake her Research Studies.  Her research question is “How can Cultural Resilience enhance support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing grief and loss during Chronic Illness?”.

In February this year, she attended the Induction Block week for the 14 members of Cohort 16, at the JCU campus in Townsville.  The AITHM Cohort Doctoral Studies Program has equipped her with skills and support to explore her research studies.

“The Cohort Program is a good platform for someone returning to university life after 20 years and getting back into study mode,” Rachel said.

“I enjoyed all the various sessions and content during induction week. The presenters were brilliant, and so were the Program support staff. I felt at ease and know I am able to access their assistance if needed, and also the program has set me up in terms of my research study now.  I also felt very comfortable interacting with other students in the group.  The Cohort Program is imperative for students undertaking higher degree studies” Rachel said.

Rachel is now looking forward to pursuing her research study and she hopes her research findings will help inform future health initiatives to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with chronic Illness.

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