Current graduate research

MCSHE oversees the Higher Degree by Research (HDR) education portfolio of the FMNHS.  We have over 30 PhD students currently doing HPER projects across the education portfolio and other schools and departments of the Faculty (e.g. School of Nursing & Midwifery etc.).  What follows are some examples of HPER PhD projects for students with MCSHE as their primary affiliation.

MCSHE PhD projects

PhD candidate: Sarah Lee
Thesis title:

Sarah is a Mental Health Therapist with experience working in illicit drug use, medical and health education research. Sarah’s research aims to explore the identity transitions in clinicians to educators across the health and human service workforce. This research aims to enhance the understanding of the complexities within managing simultaneous roles and evolving identities. The project will include a systematic narrative literature review, audio dairy methodology and discourse analysis methods will be utilised to give greater insight into the identity transition, and will highlight key factors of how identity forms and transitions both over time and across different professional roles, the factors that inhibit and facilitate those transitions and the broader impacts the transition from practitioner to educator has on both the practitioner and the organization.

Sarah’s supervisors are Associate Professor Claire Palermo (MCSHE), Professor Charlotte Rees (Murdoch University) and Dr Bridget O’Brien (UCSF).


PhD candidate: Marian Cornett
Thesis title: Professional Identity Development in Dietitians - Influences and Impacts

Marian is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian with more than 28 years’ experience in varied roles across clinical care, community health, teaching and research both in Australia and Canada. Periodic professional dissonance experienced over her career is the impetus for Marian’s research, a dissonance reflected in the literature where descriptions of dietetics suffering an identity crisis, of being at the crossroads, or of failing to reach its potential are well documented. With a rapidly changing dietetics environment and an inability of the profession to keep pace a likely contributor, dietetics education and its associated structures must consider its role in this professional crisis and change accordingly. Marian is proposing a study of professional identity formation in dietitians and its role in leadership development in the profession. The proposed research includes: a systematic literature review of identity formation in health professionals in the workforce; a qualitative investigation of advanced practice dietitians and dietitians identified as leaders in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom; and documentary analysis of the Dietitians Association of Australia lecture series Lecture in Honour. Understanding the process through which dietitians develop their professional identities will have implications for dietetic education which in turn will have an impact on the profession as a whole, particularly the emergence of transformational leaders.

Marian’s supervisors are Associate Professor Claire Palermo and Professor Susan Ash.


PhD candidateChanika Ilangakoon
Thesis title: How do undergraduate nursing & midwifery students use feedback to develop their evaluative judgement.

Chanika is a lecturer in Nursing and Midwifery at Monash University and also has clinical experience in paediatric intensive care as a Registered Nurse. Chanika has over 10 years of experience in teaching undergraduate health professional students which has led her to PhD research in exploring how undergraduate nursing and midwifery students use feedback to develop their evaluative judgement.

Chanika’s supervisors are Professor Charlotte Rees (Murdoch University), Professor Ruth Endacott (Nursing & Midwifery, Monash University) and Associate Professor Rola Ajjawi (CRADLE, Deakin University).


PhD candidate: David Brewster
Thesis title: Leadership in intensive care medicine: a qualitative study to explore the emergence of leadership in different intensive care team contexts.

David is the Director of Medical Education and Clinical Dean at Cabrini Hospital whilst also working as the Deputy Director of the Intensive Care Unit. David’s research aims to enhance the understanding of leadership within intensive care medicine (ICM). It aims to explore the inter-professional team members' understandings of team leadership, their leadership experiences and the perceived facilitators and barriers to leadership within ICM. This project will include a synthesis of the leadership literature within ICM and focus group discussions with staff from multiple intensive care units. The differences in leadership emergence will be further explored using video-reflexive ethnography (VRE) within ICM teams in two contexts: high acuity emergent situations and low acuity clinical encounters

David’s supervisors are Professor Charlotte Rees (Murdoch University), Dr Mahbub Sarkar (MCSHE), adjunct Professor Warwick Butt (Monash University) and adjunct Dr Lisi Gordon (Scotland).


Recently completed PhD candidate: Charlotte Denniston
Thesis title:  Communication skills in healthcare: academic, clinician and patient perspectives.

Charlotte is a recipient of an NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship and her PhD research is investigating:‘What is important to learn in healthcare communication?’ Her research explores what constitutes effective communication in healthcare from the perspective of the patient, practitioner and the researcher. The aim is to develop pragmatic implications for high quality educational research and healthcare communication practice. She has completed three phases of her research so far, including: 1) Systematic Literature Review and Qualitative Synthesis, 2) Health Professional Interview Study, and 3) Patient Questionnaire Study.

Charlotte’s supervisors are Professor Elizabeth Molloy, Professor Charlotte Rees and Professor Jenny Keating.