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2017 National Palliative Care Award winners… where are they now? Dr Diana Ferreira

Dr Diana Ferreira (second from left) winner of the Emerging Researcher Award 2017.

As we countdown to the the announcement of the 2019 National Palliative Care Awards at the Oceanic Palliative Care Conference in Perth, we thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with our 2017 winners…

Today, we hear from Dr Diana Ferreira from Flinders University, winner of the Emerging Researcher Award 2017. Diana will also be  co-presenting the pre-conference workshop Managing chronic breathlessness in the palliative care setting: A practical workshop at 19OPCC.

You received Palliative Care Australia’s Emerging Leader award in 2017. What did winning the award mean to you?

Winning the Emerging Researcher Award in 2017 was a great honor and an important reward for my work. Just two years before that, I had decided to move to Australia to learn about palliative care and, in particular, to increase my knowledge in palliative care research. Although I always felt welcomed in Australia, it is always challenging to adapt to a new country, with different culture and language. In addition, I had a very basic understanding of research methodologies, which required me to invest significant time and effort in developing my skills. When I got awarded the Emerging Researcher Award, I realized my work was actually making a difference for some people and that made me incredibly happy.

Can you tell us where you are currently working and/or your current career or research focus?

I am currently in the last year of my PhD. My research project is focused on questions related with the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of sustained-release morphine for chronic breathlessness. In practical terms, my research project requires me to focus of different sub-studies, with different methodologies. I am doing some qualitative work with patients and caregivers to explore their experiences of chronic breathlessness and their experiences with low-dose sustained-release morphine for breathlessness. I am also involved in two laboratorial sub-studies which are investigating variations in response to sustained-release morphine therapy and some of the mechanisms by which morphine improves breathlessness.    

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I was always curious to understand how things work in the human body. What is chronic breathlessness? Why do different people experience different degrees of breathlessness in the same stage of the same disease? Why do some people get better with sustained-release morphine and others do not? These questions are fascinating and my curiosity to know the answers keeps me excited about what I am doing. In addition, my job requires me to interact with different researchers which allows me to discuss ideas and learn from their experiences. There are people doing phenomenal research in Australia who are truly inspiring.  

What advice do you have for emerging researchers in palliative care?

The most important thing is making sure that you stay curious about the topic you are dedicating yourself to. The research world can be particularly demanding because you will come face-to-face with rejection many times. So it is important to make sure that your curiosity always exceeds the frustration you might feel at times. I think the other important factor conditioning your success is your relationship with your supervisor(s). It is important to work with someone that you truly respect but it is also important to make sure that you have compatible working styles. I am deeply blessed in this regard and very much aware that the success I had so far would not be possible without the contribution of my supervisors Professor David Currow and Professor Jane Philips.

What goals would you like to see for the future of palliative care in Australia?

There are still misconceptions about chronic and life-limiting illnesses across the population. Most people are still not educated about death and dying and palliative care is still frequently associated with the last days of life. As clinicians and researchers, we need to develop effective strategies to educate communities about these issues. Opening a conversation about dying with the general population will ultimately lead to more empowered and resilient communities.

Are you attending 19OPCC – if so what sessions are you most looking forward to?

I am particularly happy to see that 19OPCC is so focused on inclusivity. I am looking forward to hearing Dr Christian Ntizimira talking about transcultural aspects of palliative care. I am also looking forward to hearing some of the sessions on how to create a practice that is inclusive for minority groups. I do believe that universal access to palliative care is a human right, so I am interested in sessions that bring forward that perspective.  

There’s still time to register to attend 19OPCC. Visit oceanicpallcare.com/registration


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