Liz Sturgiss is a lecturer at the Academic Unit of General Practice of the Australian National University
I faced attending PHCRIS this year with some trepidation. I’ll admit that, as a (very) early career GP researcher, the recent months of de-funding announcements have filled me with disappointment. Have I chosen a career path worth pursuing? Is this a valuable way to spend the next 30 years of my working life?
I’m pleased to say I’ve been left with a feeling of great hope having been inspired by my primary healthcare research mentors and leaders.
Relationship was a recurring theme. From Prof Nick Zwar’s work on the importance of the GP advice in medication use for childhood asthma, to Shaun Larkin (HCF funder) finding that the elderly valued the social connections from ongoing care packages and Prof Claire Jackson reminding us of the importance of connecting and relating to those outside our academic world. Relationships seem to be key for work as a clinician, researcher and policy maker.
I was touched by Prof Helena Britt’s heartfelt and emotional thanks to the many GPs who have contributed to the BEACH dataset over 18 years. It was a timely reminder for all PHC researchers of the respectful way we must work with those who are our “research subjects”. They are often our colleagues and co-workers – research that diminishes or demeans them has no place in Australian primary healthcare research. BEACH has been a shining light of respectful and helpful collaboration and it will be missed sorely by all. Many PhD students, including myself, have started every project and paper with the question, “well, what does BEACH say?”
I was reminded of the privilege I have as a GP to have the respect and trust of patients. I owe this privilege to the GPs that have seen that patient before me, who have acted professionally and built the respect for the profession. This also applies to research. As a research community we have the privilege of working with communities to build better health outcomes for all. Co-creation was a standout theme of the conference and a powerful tool for developing a respectful, relevant and productive research community.
As Dr Steve Hambleton rightly pointed out at the start of PHCRIS, it is a great to time be a GP, a great time to be in primary healthcare research. Primary health care researchers are resilient, creative and have a fantastic ability to deal with uncertainty. I am honoured to be part of a research community that is moving forward with positivity certain in the knowledge that what we do makes a difference to the healthcare of our patients and the communities they live in.