Transdisciplinary Understanding and Training on Research (TUTOR) - an invaluable experience
25 June 2019
The ‘Bell-ringer exercise’ allowed us to meet each of the mentors and hear them talk about their discipline and what it brings to a research project. These sessions really opened my eyes to the different ways that researchers with diverse professional backgrounds can work together."
I first heard about the TUTOR-PHC programme when I was applying for my PhD and I knew straight away it was a scheme I wanted to apply for. I spoke to past TUTOR alumni Ben Ainsworth and Ryc Aquino who were very supportive and encouraged me to apply. I was therefore thrilled to find out I had been awarded the 2019 SPCR place.
TUTOR-PHC is a one-year training programme designed to build capacity in primary health care research. It begins with a face-to-face symposium in Ontario, Canada and continues with a series of online workshops and discussion groups throughout the year. This year the symposium was held at the historic Ivey Spencer Leadership Centre, in London, Ontario. The Ivey, as it is commonly known, is set in 30 acres of beautiful parkland and during my visit I managed to see deer, Canada Geese, and even a wild turkey. The venue was the perfect setting for what turned out to be an intensive and very valuable four days.
Left: Delivering my 45 second elevator pitch to a decision maker.
We began on the first day with an icebreaker activity, getting to know our fellow trainees and mentors. There are 14 trainees in my cohort: 12 Canadians, myself and a trainee from Australia. Some are current PhD students (like myself) and some are postdocs. We represent a broad mix of disciplines: psychology, nursing, family medicine, social work, epidemiology, occupational therapy and health services management. Interdisciplinary working is at the heart of the TUTOR programme and this mix of disciplines led to some very interesting discussions, highlighting the different perspectives we can each bring to research.
The next three days were a very intensive mix of workshops, lectures and exercises that built on the pre-reading (there is lots of reading!). We began by exploring the meaning of different terms such as primary care and primary health care, as well as multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary. The ‘Bell-ringer exercise’ allowed us to meet each of the mentors and hear them talk about their discipline and what it brings to a research project. These sessions really opened my eyes to the different ways that researchers with diverse professional backgrounds can work together. We also had chance to talk about our own research projects and hear the perspectives of our fellow trainees- their questions and suggestions. This helped to broaden my thinking and consider different ways to take my research forward.
There were sessions on patient and community engagement, Knowledge Translation, and engaging with Decision Makers. At the symposium we also began work on the ‘request for proposals’ (RFP) task. Split into two teams of seven, we received the RFP and were asked to think of a research question to answer the RFP. This was a really interesting exercise because our group had some good ideas but refining the research question was indeed a challenge. We will continue working on the mock proposal over the coming year, with each member of our team responsible for a section of the application. I think working together on the application and obtaining feedback from the mentors after it is submitted will be really useful.
Throughout the symposium there were lots of opportunities to speak to the mentors and this was strongly encouraged. The mentors were friendly, approachable and supportive, and it was fantastic to learn from the wealth of expertise they possessed.
At the time of writing I have just completed the first online workshop. I opted for the “Mixed Methods” workshop as most of my PhD research (developing a brief mindfulness-based intervention) employs mixed methods. The workshop was incredibly useful and very timely, as I am in the middle of analysing data for one mixed methods study and writing up the findings of another mixed methods study. Engaging in conversations with my fellow trainees and getting feedback from the mentors has definitely helped to shape my work.
In addition, while in Canada for the symposium I took the opportunity to meet up with a mindfulness researcher from the University of Toronto. It was a really useful meeting that has given me some ideas for my PhD research. Meeting face-to-face as opposed to by phone or email proved very valuable, and it was thanks to being on the TUTOR programme and attending the symposium that I was able to make that connection.
Taking part in the TUTOR-PHC programme has already been an invaluable experience and I am looking forward to the upcoming online sessions and further engagement with my fellow trainees and mentors. I am also hoping that some of these connections may turn into real collaborations and applications for funding in the future.
Left: Trainees, I am sixth from bottom.