Getting to know ... Caroline Finch
Name: Caroline Finch
Title: Professor and NHMRC Principal Research Fellow
Faculty: Monash Injury Research Institute (MIRI), Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Science.
Department: Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP).
How long have you worked at Monash?
In this current role, since September 2010. However, I have previously worked at Monash in two other research roles - in the Monash University Accident Research Centre from 1992-1997 (where I did my injury research training) and from 2001-2003 within the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine.
Where did you work prior to starting at the University?
Prior to my most recent appointment, I was a research professor within the School of Human Movement and Sport Sciences at the University of Ballarat.
What do you like best about your role?
It has to be the people! I have a fabulous research team with dedicated staff and students who are as passionate about sports injury prevention as I am. Also, reflecting Australia’s status as a sports-mad nation, the general public has got such a strong interest in sports injury prevention that it is hard for me to go anywhere and not meet someone who has a story to tell or who can’t recognise the significance of the work we are doing.
Why did you choose your current career path?
Even at high school, I wanted to head my own research centre looking at some form of disease prevention. As an undergraduate science student (at Monash), I found that my interests in disease prevention could be combined with my stronger stats/maths skills and so it was quite natural from that point on to become an epidemiologist/biostatistician. When I landed my first job in the injury prevention field in 1992, I felt I “had come home” and was soon able to carve out a niche area for a new research program focussing mainly on sports injury prevention in community-level athletes. I’ve been doing that ever since.
I think that was as a milk bar counter assistant. I can remember selling lots of meat pies with sauce and making milk shakes. It was also in the days when kids would come in with 5-10 cents and ask for a bag of 20 or so mixed lollies; they got to choose their own mixture which I then put in a small paper bag for them.
Now that’s easy. I am vegetarian, never liked the taste of meat, even as a child. However, as a third year undergraduate student at Monash, I was desperate for casual work to help support myself and would you believe I got a job in a butcher’s shop. My Saturday mornings started with cooking a mega-breakfast for two male butchers – only meat of course, with a bit of white bread and tomato sauce. Then I spent the rest of the morning cleaning up machines and various tools, sweeping the floor, making sausage meat, etc. The worst part of it was that I was paid a pittance in terms of real cash, but I was given a large supply of leftover meat to take home with me. I never ate it but my family enjoyed it!
What research are you currently working on and what does it involve?
A large part of my research focuses on how to get the scientific evidence-base about what sports injury prevention measures should work in the real world. After all, if the athletes or players will not adopt, use or comply with safety measures (eg protective equipment, exercise training programs, safety guidelines, etc) then injuries cannot, by definition, be prevented.
This whole area of research is starting to get lots of international attention and similar issues apply in other health contexts too. For this reason, I am conducting several studies into both the use and development of implementation and dissemination science.
The biggest study I am currently working on is an NHMRC Partnerships Project, called NoGAPS (National Guidance for Australian football Partnerships and Safety), where we are developing, delivering, implementing and evaluating new evidence-based guidelines for exercise training programs to prevent lower limb injuries in community Australian football. This study involves formal partnerships with the Australian Football League, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, NSW Sporting Injuries Committee, JLT Sport, a division of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Australia Pty Ltd; Department of Planning and Community Development - Sport and Recreation Victoria Division; and Sports Medicine Australia - National and Victorian Branches (SMA). The project, which is being conducted over 2010-2013, aims to identify factors that influence the translation of evidence-based injury prevention interventions into practice in community sport, and to provide specific evidence for the effectiveness of an evidence-based exercise-training program for lower limb injury prevention in community Australian football.
What is your favourite place in the world and why?
In my role, I travel a lot – both interstate and internationally several times a year. While I have had the opportunity to see some fantastic sights and experienced things that most other people don’t, I am always very glad to come home again – definitely my favourite place!
What is your favourite place to eat and why?
I live in a large regional city and I have to say there is not all that much variety of really good food which is full of flavour. As a vegetarian, this is particularly challenging and there is just so much pasta, pizza and omelettes that one can eat. I like the really fresh, crisp and spicy flavours of south-east Asian foods and good Indian food and end up cooking this myself at home most times. Just as well I really enjoy cooking. That way, too, I can eat the organic vegetables I grow in my community garden plot.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
I have a twofold answer to that, both relating to advice I was given in high school from family members.
Firstly, do not limit yourself and only think about what might be easy from a career point of view. Aim for the top – if you never aim for that you have no chance of ever reaching anywhere near it and with the correct mindset (and obviously skills behind you) you can achieve whatever you want.
Secondly, being a female is no barrier. This latter was particularly sage advice when it became clear I was very good at mathematics and should follow university studies in that very-male dominated domain.
Tell us something about yourself that your colleagues wouldn’t know?
I am an accomplished dressmaker. I made both of my sisters’ wedding dresses, and also made the bridesmaid dresses for two weddings. I used to make all my own clothes and those of my son before he started school. These days, my sewing is largely confined to interior decorating (eg curtains, cushions, etc) but I am still really fussy about the colour, cut and fabric of my clothes.