2023 Research Awards Announced at OTA's 30th National Conference & Exhibition

We are delighted to announce this year's Research Awards, which were presented Thursday 22 June at our 30th National Conference & Exhibition held in Cairns, Queensland. These Research Awards acknowledge a member’s contribution towards the advancement of the research base of occupational therapy in four categories: Early Career Researcher, Mid Career Researcher, Clinical Researcher and Research Team.

Category 1 – Early Career Researcher

This award goes to a occupational therapist researcher prior to the completion of their PhD or up to a maximum of four year’s research experience following the completion of their PhD, or someone of equivalent professional standing.

Dr Jessica Hill

The OTA Research Awards acknowledge the outstanding research of our early-career researcher category recipient, Dr Jessica Hill. Jess is a paediatric occupational therapist and lecturer in Occupational Therapy at the University of Queensland. Following graduation in 2013, Jess gained additional training in animal assisted therapy in 2015, leading to her completing her PhD at the University of Queensland in 2021, researching the efficacy of canine-assisted occupational therapy with autistic children. Since completion of her PhD, Jess has continued her research into the impact of human-animal interaction to human and animal health and wellbeing, with her work receiving national and international recognition. In addition to her work in animal-assisted services, Jess also has an interest in the role of occupational therapists supporting client physical activity participation as a method of supporting overall health and wellbein

Category 2 – Mid Career Researcher

This category refers to research conducted by an occupational therapist 5-10 years from the award of their PhD, or with equivalent professional standing.

Dr Kitty Foley

We’d like to acknowledge the significant contributions to research by our Mid-Career Research Award winner, Dr Kitty Foley. Kitty is a Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at Southern Cross University, Gold Coast. Following graduation, she went on to complete a PhD at the Telethon Kids Institute in 2014, investigating post-school adult life for people with Down Syndrome. At this time, Kitty also worked a as paediatric OT in private practice, working with children and young people with a range of intellectual and developmental disabilities. She undertook a postdoctoral research fellowship at UNSW, leading to development of the Australian Longitudinal Study of Autism in Adulthood, before transitioning to a teaching and research position at Southern Cross University. At SCU, she is committed to equipping the next generation of OTs with knowledge and enthusiasm about clinical practice and research, as well as continuing her research program focusing on improving the physical and mental health, participation and overall wellbeing of autistic adults and people with other intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Category 3 – Clinical Researcher

This category refers to research undertaken by an occupational therapist who holds a substantive clinical position.

Carolyn Dun

Carolyn is a passionate clinical researcher keen to extend occupational therapy knowledge and practice and further grow the evidence in group work, sensory modulation interventions, and safe driving to benefit consumers and their family/supporters. Her clinical research complements her roles as Chief Occupational Therapist and Lead of the Drive Safe Program at Northern Area Mental Health Service. Carolyn has over 30 years working in clinical and non-clinical public mental health services within Melbourne. She has led and been involved in multiple research projects, with consumer driving as a major focus of her research. She has led research on driving in mental health, to build the evidence to understand how many consumers are driving and the reasons for referral, and outcomes of occupational therapy driver assessments. She has explored the experience of driver assessors providing this service within a public mental health service as well as clinician’s awareness of consumer’s driving status and their attitudes and confidence in providing education and assessing fitness to drive. This research has transformed practice and promoting sage consumer driving is now prioritised.

Category 4 – Research Team

This category refers to research undertaken by a team where the lead investigator is an occupational therapist.

Professor Lynette Mackenzie and The University of Sydney occupational Therapy, general practice, and primary care research team.

The occupational therapists on this research team include Emeritus Professor Lindy Clemson, Associate Professor Margaret McGrath, Dr Meryl Lovarini, Dr Sanet duToit, Dr Muhammad Romli (Malaysia), Dr Anne McIntyre (UK), Dr Mackenzi Pergolotti (US), Lei Wang (China), Joanne Lewis, Kelsey Marshall, Jodie Schroder, Michelle Singh, Cresta Markovic, Nicole Buckland, Husna Anuddin (Malaysia), Ann-Marie Beavis, Dianne Irving, Thomas Price, and Claire O’Connor. Professor Mackenzie leads research teams exploring allied health and OT clinical practice, addressing a range of clinical problems relevant to everyday practice and building the research capacity of clinicians in her network. Her goal is to extend and transform research in ageing, falls prevention, the long-term effects of cancer treatment, return to work following disability, and developing new models of service delivery in primary care by health professionals.

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