Tell us about your research!
I work part-time as a physician in Rehabilitation medicine and the remaining time as a Ph.D. student digging more specifically into what affects life satisfaction in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
I started with evaluating a rating tool for assessing life satisfaction, and then explored life satisfaction and associated factors.
To really get into the core of what is impacting their life satisfaction, I invited them to share their experiences during in-depth interviews. Then, I used a qualitative method to analyze the importance of acceptance and adaptation for life satisfaction. This method allows for questions to capture unexpected aspects in research areas that are difficult to approach with closed-ended questions and questionnaires.
We found that acceptance was an important factor for patients with PD to maintain life satisfaction despite having a progressive, incurable disease (read more about this finding in the previous news article). I also saw that people with PD need to comprehend, accept, adapt, and balance their new life situation to attain social belonging, which is essential for life satisfaction. Now, I believe that the key to offering efficient rehabilitation to PD patients lies in elucidating how they manage to achieve acceptance in different situations.
Why is your project important? (What difference could it make for patients?)
I would say that the modern healthcare system is quite advanced when it comes to finding the proper medication and adjusting doses to relieve symptoms. But we still lack any cure for neurodegenerative diseases. Thus, patients will have to live with them, knowing that they will eventually become sicker and sicker. To handle this with reasonable life satisfaction, they need support. And here is a significant knowledge gap in how to support them. We need to develop our tools and methods for rehabilitation.
How did you end up at MultiPark?
I started in Jan Lexell’s research group as a Ph.D. student in 2013. As he is leading one of MultiPark’s research groups and my thesis project is about Parkinson’s disease, I naturally got included.
However, since not everybody in his team is working with projects linked to MultiPark and as we are situated at HSC, it took a while for me to get actively engaged as a member of MultiPark. It wasn’t until MultiPark announced that they wanted to have a young scientists working group enhancing networking activities in our organization that I found my role. And I hope that health scientists like us will find it easier to interact with the experimental researchers within MultiPark in the future when we move to the Forum Medicum.
What did you like the most during your thesis work at MultiPark?
To meet other researchers investigating PD from another perspective is highly valuable to me. This puts me in a wider context. It keeps me motivated to identify common denominators and goals. I sincerely wish that I will experience more internal networking and collaborations onwards.
What have been the most challenging during your Ph.D.?
I found it very tricky to access the mandatory courses in time and sync that with my clinical duties. This seems much easier for the recently enrolled Ph.D. students thanks to the new research school that is now in place.
And the most rewarding?
The in-depth interviews with the patients in my research projects. Having the time to really sit down and listen to the very end of what they wanted to tell. Their generosity in sharing personal experiences. In my role as a clinician, there is never enough time for this, which is sad and heartbreaking, to be honest. Having the possibility to dig into their thoughts is a treasure. There is so much knowledge to be extracted from these conversations, even though it has sometimes been frustrating to realize that they don't get the proper support they need. In these cases, I have directed them towards colleagues in the clinic, where I know they will get adequate help (well, to the extent that we can offer, based on the knowledge we have today).
What do you like to do when you are not at work?
Together with my husband and our two children, I enjoy spending time outdoors, hiking, mountain biking, and visiting the forest. Exercise is another hobby; I like everything from running and weight lifting to yoga. I am also a spinning instructor at Gerdahallen.
What advice do you want to give to new Ph.D. students?
We often hear about how hard it can be to pursue a Ph.D. project, stress, work overload, and long working days. Of course, it may be like that for many persons. But it does not necessarily have to be like that.
Set your limits early and keep to the principles you set up. Think “good enough”!
And for relaxation, it is wise to vary your time with something completely different from only your thesis projects. This is important even for people coming from abroad without any contacts outside academia. The combo work and exercise is remarkably recovering to me. For example, you may try my spinning classes at Gerdahallen.
What happens after your defence?
As I still have two years left to complete my Residency in rehabilitation medicine, I will put more effort into finalizing that within the near future. Meanwhile, I will figure out how to best design an intervention study to continue the research engagement I built up during my thesis work. It would be great to receive input here and to consider potential collaborations. My driving force is to facilitate patients' access to interdisciplinary rehabilitation independently of where they live.