Southern Cross University and the Mid North Coast Cancer Institute in collaboration with Mid North Coast Physiotherapy are offering a fully-funded PhD scholarship in the mental health benefits of increasing physical activity in the context of cancer treatment. We are seeking an outstanding and highly motivated individual to lead a program of research on this topic and develop research collaboration between the lead organisations.
This scholarship represents an opportunity to complete a PhD and conduct research in mental health and physical activity. Specifically, this PhD will examine the benefits of multidisciplinary support (physiotherapy, exercise physiology and mental health) for individuals undergoing treatment for cancer and their carers. The project is built around Mid North Coast Physiotherapy’s "Can-Ex" initiative: an 8-week group exercise program, designed and run by an exercise physiologist targeting the physical and mental wellbeing of people who care for a loved-one currently undergoing treatment for cancer. The Can-Ex program is designed to increase physical activity and improve mental health outcomes (e.g. body composition, fitness and mood, confidence, self-esteem, motivation, wellbeing, self-empowerment). Moreover, early evidence indicates significant benefits of the program in terms of social connectivity and interpersonal support, resulting in significant quality of life benefits for individuals undergoing cancer treatment and their carers. The goals of this PhD will be to evaluate and build upon the strengths of the current program, with a view to providing the evidence required to embed a physical fitness intervention within the current treatment-as-usual for people impacted by cancer and their carers.
This PhD project will take a multipronged approach to identify the most effective ways to assist patients and carers in becoming active, with physical activity being a highly modifiable factor for the improvement of overall wellbeing and building social connectivity. Furthermore, the project will investigate barriers for patients and carers in commencing an exercise program and investigate a number of approaches to improve referral, initiation and adherence to the program. Finally, the project will focus on identifying the psychological benefits of the program and investigate the impacts of supplementing the physical training components with motivational interviewing and mental health support.
Applicants are welcome to contact Dr Chris Stevens for an informal discussion about this opportunity.